Here's the headline the Bush Administration wants: U.S. greenhouse gas emissions make biggest decline since 1985 (when measured against economic output).
Here's why: The U.S. will join other United Nations' delegates in Bali next week to discuss an international strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to stave off the worst consequences of global warming. The U.S. doesn't want strict, mandatory, binding targets, and instead is pursuing parallel negotiations with nonbinding targets.
Here's the reality: The emissions in 2006 were 1.5% lower than in 2005, but still 15% higher than in 1990. The generally accepted target for reducing greenhouse gas pollution to avert some of the more catastrophic consequences of global warming is a reduction of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
The White House claims several factors led to the drop in emissions: higher energy prices, a gradual trend away from using petroleum coal in favor of renewable energy and natural gas. Another reason, "favorable weather conditions," the administration "had no hand in creating," as the Los Angeles Times put it.
Well, sort of. As the world's leader in per capita carbon dioxide emissions, we've arguably had a leading role in the rise in temperatures seen worldwide. One consequence of that temperature increase in the United States has been shorter and less intense winters, which means homeowners have burned less oil to heat their homes. And that, in turn, helped reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, if only a bit.
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