May 15, 2022

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States
Contents

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are from gases that trap heat in the atmosphere from human activities in varied economic sectors and cause global warming and climate disasters. Most GHG emissions come from carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, but the others are from methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases.

The United States is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world after China. After the COP26 talks and numerous global environmentalist action groups that we saw take to the streets in 2021, it's evident that climate action will have to be taken in order to save the environment and stay competitive in business if you want eco-friendly customers to stay loyal to you.

If you are interested in seeing the biggest emission factors in the United States, then this article is for you. We'll also show you how you can get to net zero using emissions management software as your guide.

Sources of greenhouse gas emissions by sector

The greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in the United States in 2020 consisted of transportation (27%), electricity (25%), industry (24%), commercial and residential (13%), and agriculture (11%).

ghg emissions usa economic sector

GHGs from transportation

The primary source of carbon dioxide emission in the United States is transportation. This includes gasoline and diesel used in cars and trucks, fuel used in ships and trains, and the jet fuel used to power aircraft. Currently, around 90% of all transportation fuel in America is fossil fuel based. While renewable sources are slowly gaining popularity, the rate of uptake is not close to the amount needed to reach emission targets.

How to reduce transportation emissions

Mainly, fuel switching to biofuels, using hydrogen, or electric cars would reduce transportation emissions. Using public transportation that uses natural gas is also becoming more common in different cities. Of course, making logistics shorter and walking instead of driving also makes a difference.

Net0 includes a simulator tool in its platform so companies can simulate carbon reductions in certain areas and view the outcome of how their carbon footprint would improve. Since transportation emissions data can easily be converted to carbon tonnage in our system, you can make comparisons between your emissions now and after you reach your reduction goals. 

You can also add company vehicles and their emissions to the platform, ranging from passenger cars to commercial trucks. Our system will calculate the raw data and turn it into CO2 tonnage for you, allowing you to have clear data so you know exactly what your carbon footprint is and how you can improve.

GHGs from power

Electricity generation is the second largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States. Although the amount associated with power is slowly decreasing, renewable sources are not taking hold quickly enough. The use of coal has subsided over the years. However, gas and other fossil fuels have taken its place and although they emit fewer GHGs, they still contribute significantly towards global warming.

How to reduce electricity emissions

Fuel switching from coal-fired power plants would reduce emissions. Having more options from renewable energy sources to use in homes and buildings would cut down carbon emissions as well. Although natural gas still emits, even that is less abrasive than coal. Nuclear plants that generate nuclear power are also beneficial. The US EPA also suggests carbon capturing and injecting it underground to be sequestered in suitable subsurface geological formations.

Not only do carbon offsets offer a way to capture and get rid of CO2 in the atmosphere while you reduce emissions, but verified carbon offsets are guaranteed to get the projects done. When you contribute to varied projects like wind power, solar power, etc., society has more options to switch to renewables and live a carbon free life. 

GHGs from industry

Industry currently contributes to about 24% of the United States' total greenhouse gas emissions. Primarily, this is from burning fossil fuels, although some chemical reactions needed to produce various goods are partly to blame. Unfortunately, the emissions from industry have shown that little has been done to abate emissions.

How to reduce industry emissions

Fuel switching, recycling, improved machinery, and having options of using renewable energy sources and natural gas in industries will help reduce this sector's carbon emissions.

Industry emissions include direct and indirect emissions and Net0 will automatically itemize and categorize your emissions when the data is provided. This enables you to track, measure, and analyze all 3 scope emissions accurately.

GHGs from buildings

Commercial and residential buildings contribute a little over 13% of the total emissions. However, this amount does vary considerably depending on the weather in a given year. An unusually cold winter results in the burning of more fossil fuels to warm up buildings, or a hotter summer that emits HFCs with air conditioning systems. This figure also incorporates the gas released during the handling of waste in landfill and other areas, which is steadily increasing in volume over time, anaerobic digestion at biogas facilities, and wastewater treatment plants.

How to reduce building emissions

Carbon reduction of direct emissions through decreasing fossil-fuel-powered heating, cooking machines that are outdated, fluorinated gases from A/Cs and refrigerators that are not energy efficient, and wastewater treatment plants would help significantly. While these are still important to use in the home, there are alternatives that are becoming more available every year to be able to reduce. Decreasing indirect emissions like lighting and electricity can be done by switching to renewables and using less energy in peak hours.

Net0 enables you to add locations of manufacturing and office facilities so you can compartmentalize all of your emissions and see the sources of where they are coming from. This is important for setting benchmarks and planning carbon reduction goals.

GHGs from agriculture

The main agricultural emissions come from cattle farming and dairy products, as cows release a large amount of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. While other types of livestock are not quite as damaging as cows, there is still a substantial difference between the emissions associated with animals, compared to plant-based agriculture. There is still a large amount of work to be done if America is to reduce emissions sufficiently to prevent climate change as agriculture makes up for 11% of the emissions. 

How to reduce agriculture emissions

Regenerative agriculture should be implemented where it can be to reduce agriculture emissions. Methane can be reduced by practicing healthier livestock breeding and nutrition. Fertilizing crops with the right amount of nitrogen optimizes crop production. Manure management planned and done by experts will also help reduce carbon emissions.

Related Content

We help companies become carbon neutral through the use of technology. For more information about this topic, please check out our free resources:

• Article:
Top Countries in the Race to Net Zero Emissions
• Article: GHG Reporting: Everything You Need to Know

Overview of greenhouse gas emissions by gas

Greenhouse gases in the US are made up of carbon dioxide (79%), methane (11%), nitrous oxide (7%), and the remaining fluorinated gases make up (3%) consisting of perfluorocarbons (PFS), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).

usa ghgs by gas

Carbon dioxide

CO2 enters the atmosphere mostly by burning fossil fuels. It also happens by using gas, natural gas, oil, from any of the sectors and their causes listed above.

How to reduce carbon dioxide

Eradication of coal plants would reduce CO2 significantly. Switching to renewable energy and electric car usage helps. Improving the way wastewater management is done, chemical reactions from manufacturing, implementing better procurement and logistics strategies in the value chain, and preserving blue carbon ecosystems and forestry are all ways CO2 could be reduced.

Net0 converts organizations' raw data into CO2 tonnage (tCO2e) which is the abbreviation for all greenhouse gas emissions; it is just called as such because CO2 is the most prevalent and damaging of the greenhouse gases. This data is then used to measure, track, plan reduction strategies, offset, and report carbon emissions so your organization can become carbon neutral certified.

Methane

Methane emissions come from producing and transporting coal, oil, and gas, and mismanaging how livestock is fed and raised, and decaying waste in landfills.

How to reduce methane

Not using outdated equipment from transporting coal, oil, and natural gas would help with methane leaks. Having experts plan manure management strategies and proper livestock care would reduce methane emissions in agriculture. At home, reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfills would decrease methane emissions.

Nitrous oxide

N2O emissions come from land use, wastewater treatment, fossil fuel and waste combustion, agricultural, and industrial activities. Although there is a much lower percentage of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere, the US EPA says, "The impact of 1 pound of N2O on warming the atmosphere is almost 300 times that of 1 pound of carbon dioxide." Approximately 40% of N2O emissions come from human activity.

How to reduce nitrous oxide

Managing crops from agriculture with reduced amounts of nitrogen in fertilizers would reduce emissions. Reducing fuel combustion from transportation. Using abatement equipment in industry is also beneficial to reducing nitrous oxide emissions.

Fluorinated gases

Perfluorocarbons (PFS), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) are synthetic gases that come from buildings and appliances from homes and businesses. They are a low percentage of emissions yet highly potent and contribute to global warming and the destruction of the ozone layer. 

How to reduce fluorinated gases

Reducing these emissions can be done by using energy efficient appliances, reducing electricity usage on a power grid, and using alternative refrigerants for building and vehicle cooling systems.

Final takeaways

Although the United States has expressed they want to reach net zero emissions by 2050, they have a long way to go. However, every business can do their part individually to reduce their carbon emissions until they are eliminated. Navigating your path with an emissions management platform will significantly increase your ability to offset the present emissions and create a robust net zero strategy you can commit to. 

A choice of 140+ certified projects in Net0's platform gives companies a way to create diverse offset portfolios. We recommend investing in projects for the future (such as tree planting or coral restoration) as well as supporting more tech sophisticated projects such as carbon capturing and sequestration.

Our goal is to get companies to net zero fast. If you are interested in seeing the platform and experiencing what it can do for you in your industry, then book a free call with us so we can get you started on your path to net zero.

Cover photo by Loïc Manegarium from Pexels

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FAQ

What’s the difference between gross zero and net zero?

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.

Again, net zero is coming to a balance between emissions and those which have been removed from the atmosphere. Gross zero means stopping all emissions, period.
How soon can we start?

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.

You can usually start using the system within a week of contract signature. Book a call with us to start.
Do you help with setting up the processes?

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.

Yes, our team will help you set up the platform and provide you with guidance on how to use it.
What type of clients have you successfully helped?

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.

We work with companies from different industries, from professional services and tech businesses to construction companies and manufacturing sites.
What sets Net0 apart from others on the market?

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.

Net0 offers simplicity, automation, no-code integrations, and provides an activity-based approach meaning the calculations are done by co2e tonnage and not by how much money was spent on the activity that led to emissions.
Why do companies choose to work with Net0?

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

Net0 is the most comprehensive solution to recording, measuring, tracking, offsetting, and certifying emissions all in one place and in minutes. Net0 also enables organizations to invite anyone they want to contribute to the dashboard, being all-inclusive and simple to use.

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