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The US Economy Grew in 2014 — Carbon Pollution, Not So Much

The report highlights the debate over whether nations can grow their economies at the same time as reigning in their greenhouse gas emissions.
Photo by Matt Brown/AP

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If new US government figures are any indication, addressing climate change doesn't have to mean curtailing economic growth.

Last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration, carbon dioxide emissions from energy use in the United States grew slightly, but not as much as gross domestic product. The agency said on Monday the US economy expanded by 2.4 percent in 2014, while greenhouse gas emissions increased 0.7 percent. By comparison, the economy grew by 2.2 percent and energy-related carbon emissions increased 2.5 percent in 2013.


Today in — EIA (@EIAgov)April 20, 2015

Economic concerns have often trumped those about climate change. Holding off rising temperatures and more frequent, more destructive extreme weather events, so the theory goes, means placing restrictive policies on the energy sector and industry.

The 2014 numbers aren't the first piece of evidence that nations might be able to rein in their greenhouse gases without sacrificing their economic growth.

In March the International Energy Agency found that 2014 was the first year in four decades that emissions didn't grow along with the world economy. Global carbon emissions held steady from 2013 to 2014, according to the study, while the economy grew by 3 percent.

EIA projects energy-related  emissions will "increase slightly" in 2015 and 2016 at a rate of 0.1 percent annually.

"Future energy consumption and related emission levels," the agency said, "will depend largely on a mix of weather, energy sources, and economic factors — as well as potential changes in national and state policies."

Related: [It might be possible to reduce carbon emissions and grow the economy at the same time](: