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SUVs spew more planet-heating carbon than planes and factories

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Americans love their sport utility vehicles, but we're not the only ones — more consumers are buying the gas-guzzlers around the world. Globally, 40% of all car purchases today are SUVs, twice their sales a decade ago, federal data show. In the U.S., nearly half of all new cars sold are SUVs.

Yet while drivers seem to love the convenience of SUVs, the inconvenient truth is that virtually nothing is worse for the environment. The vehicles have spewed more carbon emissions over the last decade than planes and ships combined or planes and heavy industry combined, a recent analysis by the International Energy Agency found. Between 2010 and 2018, SUVs were the second-largest contributor to global carbon dioxide emissions, behind only the energy industry, according to the agency. 

"On average, SUVs consume about a quarter more energy than medium-size cars," the EIA wrote. "As a result, global fuel economy worsened caused in part by the rising SUV demand since the beginning of the decade, even though efficiency improvements in smaller cars saved over 2 million barrels a day, and electric cars displaced less than 100,000 barrels a day."

SUVs are also more dangerous than smaller cars, and bear much of the responsibility for the recent increase in pedestrian deaths, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

But because SUVs are a status symbol in many countries, the EIA predicts that demand for them will grow, especially in rapidly developing Asia and Africa. If the world keeps adding SUVs at the current pace, that alone would make it impossible to keep global temperatures within the range set by the Paris climate agreement, according to some reports.

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