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How Tennessee’s Carbon Emissions Compare to Other States

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With each passing year, the effects of climate change become seemingly more obvious. According to NASA, June 2023 was the hottest June on record for the planet. In the United States, this summer has been marred by severe flooding in Vermont, record breaking heat waves in Arizona and Florida, and intermittent air quality alerts across much of the country resulting from thousands of wildfires in Canada. Experts have linked each of these events to man-made climate change.

Despite the increasingly destructive effects of climate change, the United States continues to pump billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. From 2020 to 2021, America’s energy-related carbon emissions jumped by 6.9%, or nearly 317 million metric tons.

Encouragingly, this most recent increase in carbon emissions may have been an anomaly. In 2020, America’s carbon footprint was reduced by the COVD-19 pandemic, as shelter-in-place policies reduced demand for energy and the burning of fossil fuels. By 2021, however, rising demand for consumer goods, increased use of coal in the face of rising natural gas prices, and vaccinations that allowed many to return to a more normal way of life resulted in a spike in carbon emissions.

Between 2020 and 2021, the most recent years of available data, carbon emissions in Tennessee increased by 11.2%. Over that period, energy related carbon dioxide pollution went from 83.3 million metric tons to 92.7 million metric tons.

Adjusting for population, carbon emissions in Tennessee totaled about 13.3 metric tons per person in 2021, the 22nd lowest per capita output among states.

All data on state-level energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 and 2021 is from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a division of the Department of Energy.

RankState1-yr change in energy related carbon emissions (%)Energy related carbon emissions in 2020 (million metric tons)Energy related carbon emissions in 2021 (million metric tons)Enery related carbon emissions per capita in 2021 (metric tons)1Hawaii16.214.917.312.02West Virginia14.976.988.449.53Arkansas13.354.762.020.54Iowa11.465.773.122.95Tennessee11.283.392.713.36Pennsylvania10.5193.3213.516.47Alabama10.198.4108.421.58Kentucky10.0101.2111.324.79Maryland9.348.152.68.510South Carolina9.163.669.313.411Florida9.0207.7226.310.412Nevada8.936.239.412.513New York8.8143.4156.07.914Montana8.526.328.525.815North Carolina8.4106.6115.610.916Connecticut8.333.836.610.117Rhode Island8.39.810.69.718Illinois8.3170.2184.214.519Utah8.157.462.118.620Alaska8.036.038.953.021Michigan8.0136.9147.814.722Washington7.968.473.89.523Indiana7.7154.4166.424.424Missouri7.6108.7117.019.025Massachusetts7.352.356.18.026Colorado6.879.985.414.727Maine6.713.514.410.528New Hampshire6.712.513.39.629California6.7303.8324.08.330Georgia6.5116.6124.111.531New Jersey6.383.889.19.632Wisconsin6.287.092.515.733Texas6.2624.7663.522.434Minnesota6.178.483.214.635Idaho6.019.420.510.836Ohio4.5185.7194.016.537North Dakota4.254.356.572.738Oklahoma4.184.487.822.039Delaware3.912.513.012.940Arizona3.680.283.011.441Kansas3.457.859.820.342Louisiana2.9183.3188.640.843Vermont2.85.45.68.644Oregon2.737.538.59.145Nebraska1.546.547.224.046New Mexico1.545.245.921.747South Dakota1.415.015.216.948Mississippi-0.263.263.121.449Virginia-0.298.298.011.350Wyoming-1.955.654.694.3

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