U.S.: Transportation Sector CO2 Emissions, by year
YearEmissions,
in million metric tons of CO2
20231,858
20221,842
20211,809
20201,633
20191,924
20181,918
20171,887
20161,869
20151,837
20141,814
20131,795
20121,776
20111,813
20101,847
20091,832
20081,896
20072,026
20062,023
20051,992
20041,972
20031,917
20021,899
20011,859
20001,888
19991,832
19981,785
19971,748
19961,729
19951,679
19941,643
19931,600
19921,585
19911,565
19901,587
19891,591
19881,580
19871,520
19861,473
19851,423
19841,391
19831,359
19821,353
19811,383
19801,397
19791,452
19781,462
19771,405
19761,353
19751,291
  • Region: United States
  • Time period: 1975 to 2023
  • Published: Mar 2024

Data Analysis and Insights

Updated: Apr 7, 2024 | Published by: Statistico | About Us / Data / Analysis

Historical Peak in 2007

The highest CO₂ emissions in the transportation sector were recorded in 2007, reaching 2026 million metric tons. This marks a significant peak compared to other years in the dataset.

Recovery and Increase Post-2020

After a notable decrease to 1633 million metric tons in 2020, likely due to global events impacting transportation, emissions rebounded to 1858 million metric tons by 2023, showcasing a swift recovery and growth trend in the following years.

Decadal Growth From 1985 to 2023

Comparing the data from 1985, with emissions at 1423 million metric tons, to 2023, there is an observable increase of 435 million metric tons over this period, illustrating a long-term upward trend in CO₂ emissions within the sector.

Impact of Economic or Global Events

The years 2008 and 2020 saw significant reductions in emissions, to 1896 and 1633 million metric tons respectively, likely reflecting the impact of major economic or global events on transportation activities.

Steady Increase in the Early 21st Century

From 1998 to 2007, the dataset shows a steady year-on-year increase in emissions, from 1785 to 2026 million metric tons, indicating a period of consistent growth in the transportation sector's CO₂ emissions before reaching its peak.

Recent Fluctuations Indicate Recovery and Growth

Emissions fluctuated in the recent years, with a decrease in 2020 followed by an increase, reaching 1858 million metric tons by 2023. These changes underscore the sector's resilience and ongoing recovery, setting a trajectory for potential future growth.

Long-Term Upward Trend Despite Fluctuations

Despite short-term fluctuations, the long-term trend from 1985 to 2023 demonstrates an overall increase in CO₂ emissions, with a growth of 435 million metric tons over the 38-year period, underscoring the enduring upward trajectory in the transportation sector's impact on the environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was the highest CO₂ emission in the transportation sector recorded?

The highest CO₂ emissions in the transportation sector were recorded in 2007, reaching 2026 million metric tons.

Terms and Definitions

The transportation sector refers to all vehicles that move people and goods from one location to another, including cars, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and buses. This sector is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and plays a significant role in air quality.

CO₂ emissions refer to the release of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is primarily produced from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, and through certain industrial processes. High levels of CO₂ emissions contribute to global climate change.

A greenhouse gas is any gaseous compound in the air that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere. The primary greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor.

Global Warming Potential (GWP) is a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming over a period of time, often 100 years. It is a comparative measure used to assess the potential impact of different gases relative to carbon dioxide, which has a GWP of 1.

Fossil fuels are natural resources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, derived from the remnants of ancient plants and animals under heat and pressure over millions of years. They are primarily used for energy generation. The burning of fossil fuels contributes to CO₂ emissions.

Biofuels are derived from contemporary biological processes such as agriculture and anaerobic digestion. They are used as an alternative to fossil fuels for transportation and other purposes. Though producing CO₂ when burned, the overall CO₂ emissions can be smaller than for fossil fuels as the biomass source can absorb CO₂ from the atmosphere as it grows.

Emission standards are government-imposed limits on the amount of pollutants that can be released into the environment from various sources. In the context of vehicles, these standards typically regulate the permissible levels of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases that can be emitted from the exhaust.

Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to the state of balancing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset. It can also mean the elimination of carbon dioxide emissions from a certain activity or sector altogether.
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