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Keywords:

  • fossil fuel;
  • carbon dioxide emissions;
  • sectoral;
  • spatial cluster;
  • emissions mitigation policy

[1] Quantification of the spatial distribution of sector-specific fossil fuel CO2 emissions provides strategic information to public and private decision makers on climate change mitigation options and can provide critical constraints to carbon budget studies being performed at the national to urban scales. This study analyzes the spatial distribution and spatial drivers of total and sectoral fossil fuel CO2 emissions at the state and county levels in the United States. The spatial patterns of absolute versus per capita fossil fuel CO2 emissions differ substantially and these differences are sector-specific. Area-based sources such as those in the residential and commercial sectors are driven by a combination of population and surface temperature with per capita emissions largest in the northern latitudes and continental interior. Emission sources associated with large individual manufacturing or electricity producing facilities are heterogeneously distributed in both absolute and per capita metrics. The relationship between surface temperature and sectoral emissions suggests that the increased electricity consumption due to space cooling requirements under a warmer climate may outweigh the savings generated by lessened space heating. Spatial cluster analysis of fossil fuel CO2 emissions confirms that counties with high (low) CO2 emissions tend to be clustered close to other counties with high (low) CO2 emissions and some of the spatial clustering extends to multistate spatial domains. This is particularly true for the residential and transportation sectors, suggesting that emissions mitigation policy might best be approached from the regional or multistate perspective. Our findings underscore the potential for geographically focused, sector-specific emissions mitigation strategies and the importance of accurate spatial distribution of emitting sources when combined with atmospheric monitoring via aircraft, satellite and in situ measurements.