Carbon emissions continue to increase rapidly around the world. The world's emission facts are grim, and finding major examples of declining emissions is, indeed, hard to do.
But those hunting for good carbon news should look at carbon trends in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a good news exception to oceans of bad carbon data. Indeed, few countries or states have cut carbon emissions more than Pennsylvania, since 1980, 1990 or 2005.
Pennsylvania's carbon emissions in 2011 were lower than in 2005, 1990, and 1980, according to the most recent state emission data from the Energy Information Administration.
EIA reports that Pennsylvania's carbon emissions were down to 244.7 million tons in 2011 from 272.9 million tons in 2005. That's a bit more than a 10% decline in 6 years. Additionally, Pennsylvania's carbon emissions were lower in 2011 than in 1990 or 1980, when they totaled 292 million tons.
As of 1980, Pennsylvania's carbon emissions were more than 2% of the world's emissions. But, as of 2011, the Commonwealth's carbon emissions are now closer to 0.75% of the global total.
Big reductions from burning coal and oil are responsible for Pennsylvania's sharply declining carbon emissions. The Commonwealth's carbon emissions from burning coal have fallen from 153 million tons in 1980 to 140 million tons in 2005 to 114 million tons in 2011, as both nuclear and natural gas displaced large amounts of coal generation as well as petroleum combustion.
Apart from large changes over the last 30 to 50 years in how Pennsylvania generates electricity, Pennsylvania's decline in carbon emissions also reflects a structural shift in its economy from heavy industrialization to an economy now based on education, health care, and services.
All those reductions make Pennsylvania one of the best carbon reduction stories in the world over the last 34 years.