Global climate emissions flat last year despite economic growth

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The International Energy Agency says that the economy grew in 2014, but global greenhouse gas emissions did not. That's the first time in 40 years that emissions stayed flat, the agency says, without an accompanying economic downtown.

According to information released recently by the IEA, global carbon dioxide emissions totaled 32.3 billion metric tons in 2014, the same as in 2013. The agency says that efforts to address climate-altering emissions may be having a greater impact than previously thought. From the agency's report:
"The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to changing patterns of energy consumption in China and OECD (Organization for Economic Corporation and Development) countries. In China, 2014 saw greater generation of electricity from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar and wind, and less burning of coal. In OECD economies, recent efforts to promote more sustainable growth – including greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy – are producing the desired effect of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions."

An article on Climate Central, a news site devoted to climate change-related news and analysis, says thta the combination of economic growth and flat emissions breaks from the widely-held belief that emissions only decline during economic downturns. But it also says that some scientists question whether emissions will stay flat if the economy continues growing. If natural gas prices rise and dirtier fuels become cheaper again, that'll have an effect on emissions, the article says. Likewise, if carbon prices in cap-and-trade programs are set too low, that'll lead to greater emissions, it says. 


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