The 10 States Most Responsible For Climate Change Are Making Up More Than Half Of The Country's Greenhouse Gas Emissions
New data out of the World Resources Institute has helped climate scientists (and armchair activists) pinpoint the main culprits in the United States' battle against greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — and surprisingly enough, it seems to largely be coming from a relatively small sampling. The organization's latest interactive graphic shows who's really responsible for climate change in the country. Just 10 states make up over half of all GHG emissions in the country — the rest, says the WRI, are spread out evenly over the remaining 40 states. While a few of the states on the list are arguably predictable offenders, the remainder of the roster is a bit unexpected.
President Obama on Monday released his massive Clean Power Plan that aims to reduce overall emissions and overhaul the legal hurdles placed in front of the EPA. So the WRI's new figures that identify the root of the problem and its approximate location (both metaphorically and literally) couldn't have come at a better time.
At the top of the list, according to the WRI data, is the second largest state in terms of land mass: Texas makes up nearly 13 percent of the nation's GHG emissions alone, sitting at the opposite end of the table from states like Maine (0.28 percent GHG emissions), Nevada (0.63 percent), and Massachusetts (1.09 percent). Texas has a population of around 27 million and most of its emissions stem from the state's massive electrical and industrial sectors, so it's not a huge shock that the Lone Star State ranks in at No. 1.
Second on the list is the state of California at just under 7 percent. The Golden State perhaps isn't so surprising a culprit either, with the majority of its GHG emissions flowing from transportation. With Los Angeles alone playing host to some 5.8 million registered vehicles (that doesn't include cars belonging to drivers who never quite made it to the DMV), the fact that over half of the state's emissions are caused by automobiles, trucks, and pretty much anything that isn't an electrical golf-cart or a Razor Scooter, is not altogether impossible to comprehend.
For the most part, however, the majority of the remaining states could be considered a bit more unforeseen.
Sitting solidly at No. 3 on the list of the country's worst GHG emissions offenders, for example, is Pennsylvania — which, when its major industries are factored into the equation, might not seem so surprising. According to the EPA, electrical power plants, like the ones based in the nation's second-highest electricity generator, tend to spew copious amounts of sulfur dioxide. When combined with the state's nearly 9 million licensed drivers and the remainder of its power plants, Pennsylvania's 4.4 percent figure begins to make more sense.
It's not all palm trees and sandy beaches. At No. 4, Florida's spot on the list of GHG suspects can be attributed mainly to the state's more than 15 million licensed drivers. Combined with Florida's nearly 95 million tourists (according to a 2014 estimate, that number has skyrocketed around 10 percent since 2011), the main source of GHGs unsurprisingly stems from its transportation emissions.
Second only to its service sector is Illinois' manufacturing industry. Despite the breezy connotations associated with the bustling "Windy City," nearly 2 percent of its own GHG emissions stems from the electric and industrial sector. And given its place as one of the country's leading processed foods providers, there's no guarantee that figure will come down anytime soon.
It's been a rough year all around, and Ohio officials might not have long to bask in their coal-powered manufacturing glory — one of the few points of pride they have left — for long. The EPA on Monday gave the state 15 years to reduce its power plant emissions to a federally acceptable level — a challenge which manufacturing magnates say they simply can't achieve. But as the nation's No. 6 contributor to GHG emissions, it's not a gamble they can afford to take.
The Hoosier State (around 4 percent of national GHG emissions) was also hit hard on Monday by the EPA, which announced that Indiana officials, like their Ohio counterparts, had until 2030 to comply with federal mandates. But the state's leaders aren't going down without a fight: Gov. Mike Pence has already said he would fight the relatively lax requirements in court, arguing that the suggested mandates would make electrical prices skyrocket.
Sitting at around 3.6 percent, not everything is as shiny in the bayou as the state of Louisiana would have you think. Unfortunately, given the state's tough decade of natural disasters and oil spill clean-up, it'll be a hard sell to try and convince the mineral production and petrochemical manufacturers, which are just getting back on their feet, to start complying with a new set of EPA mandates.
Is it any surprise that New York made the list? At No. 9 on the list of worst GHG offenders is the Empire State, with all of its 11 million frustrated cabbies, delivery trucks, and stuck-in-traffic-too-long drivers, and its busy commercial spaces and residential stacking-cups — I mean, apartment buildings — which make up the majority of its overall emissions.
Even with the downward spiral of what was formerly the nation's biggest industrial cities, Detroit, and EPA regulations for the remaining few that followed, Michigan has still managed to make the top 10 list of the United States' biggest GHG contributors. But with that downfall comes a silver lining: With the closure of many of the state's coal plants (largely due to outdated technology and production capabilities), a new sector in the clean energy industry has opened up, giving the state reason to look up.
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