Environmental studies don't support Trump's 'cleanest' claim

June 3, 2017 by Seth Borenstein
In this Jan. 20, 2015 file photo, a plume of steam billows from the coal-fired Merrimack Station in Bow, N.H. President Donald Trump said the United States "will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth" as he announced pulling out of an international accord designed to curb climate change. But facts muddy that claim. Data show the U.S. is among the dirtiest countries when it comes to heat-trapping carbon pollution. One nation that has cleaner air in nearly every way is Sweden. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

President Donald Trump said the United States "will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth" as he announced a U.S. pullout from an international accord designed to curb climate change.

But facts muddy that claim.

Data show that the U.S. is among the dirtiest countries when it comes to heat-trapping carbon pollution. One nation that has cleaner air in nearly every way is Sweden.

"The U.S. is well behind other countries in having the cleanest and most sustainable environment," University of Michigan environmental scientist Rosina Bierbaum said in an email.

The U.S. emits more than any other nation except China. In 2014, the U.S. spewed 237 times more carbon dioxide into the air than Sweden, according to figures by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"On pretty much any climate-related indicator, the U.S. will not look good," said Glen Peters, a Norwegian climate scientist who is part of the Global Carbon Project that ranks worldwide emissions.

The U.S. is No. 2 in per person , behind Luxembourg, among 35 developed nations plus China, India and Brazil, Energy Department data show. That's 19.1 tons (17.3 metric tons) of carbon dioxide per year for the average American, compared with 4.9 tons (4.5 metric tons) for the average Swede.

In this Feb. 21, 2017 photo, a woman wearing a mask walks to a subway station during the evening rush hour in Beijing. President Donald Trump said the United States "will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth" as he announced pulling out of an international accord designed to curb climate change. But facts muddy that claim. Data show the U.S. is among the dirtiest countries when it comes to heat-trapping carbon pollution. One nation that has cleaner air in nearly every way is Sweden. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Taking into account economics, the U.S. ranks 10th highest in carbon pollution per gross domestic product behind China, India, Russia, Estonia, Poland, South Korea, the Czech Republic, Mexico and Turkey, according to the International Energy Agency . The U.S. spews almost five times more carbon dioxide per dollar in the economy than Sweden.

Because carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for more than a century, scientists and regulators say it's more important to look at historical emissions. Since 1870, the U.S. has produced about one-quarter of the world's carbon dioxide—twice as much as China—and that makes it the biggest polluter in the world by far, Peters said.

In some traditional air pollution measurements, the United States is cleaner than most nations, said William K. Reilly, who headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Republican President George H.W. Bush.

But "when the problem he is dealing with is dioxide, we are notably not better than the rest of the world," said Reilly, adding that Trump is "just wrong."

The U.S. is better than most of the world when it comes to dangerous soot or fine particles. Among industrialized countries, the U.S. tied for sixth cleanest, according to the Health Effects Institute.

It's also tied for sixth smoggiest in the world with Turkey, according to the institute .

Large crowds gather to watch as dairy cows are released into open fields for the lush summer pastures, freed from the stables which have been their homes for the long winter months, in Drottningholm, Sweden, Saturday, April 29, 2017. The annual event, known in Sweden as "koslapp" or cow release, has become a popular family outing for many urban dwellers. President Donald Trump said the United States "will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth" as he announced pulling out of an international accord designed to curb climate change. But facts muddy that claim. Data show the U.S. is among the dirtiest countries when it comes to heat-trapping carbon pollution. One nation that has cleaner air in nearly every way is Sweden. (AP Photo/David Keyton)

"There are a number of countries that have in terms of major industrial nations. We are certainly in the top core," said Dan Greenbaum, the group's president. "Clearly, countries like China and India are much, much worse than we are."

The U.S. leads in helping people fight for a clean environment by having laws and procedures that allow citizens to sue to enforce pollution protections and get information, said Princeton University climate scientist and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer.

Other countries are far ahead of the U.S. in cleaner energy, especially Germany, which on occasion is fueled fully by renewables, Oppenheimer said.

Reilly, the former EPA head, recalled how the U.S. took environmental leadership 25 years ago this month as it became the first industrial country to ratify the first climate treaty.

"Now we turn the page," Reilly said. "We'll see where it goes."

Explore further: Despite Trump, cleaner energy growth expected to carry on

More information: Interactive on temperature deviation and global emissions: interactives.ap.org/2017/climate-change-temps

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6 comments

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EmceeSquared
4.3 / 5 (6) Jun 03, 2017
Trump is a liar. Trumpy Republicans are stupid, crazy, evil or all of the above.
hemlock
4.5 / 5 (2) Jun 03, 2017
Yes, we have work to do, but to say the U.S. "...spews 237 times more carbon dioxide than Sweden..." is very misleading. Sweden has a pop. of 10 million, the U.S. 324 million. We're bound to produce more CO2 in total. Later in the article the author says we produce 19.1 tons per person vs. Sweden's 4.9 tons per person. That's 4.9 times more per person, still a significant number and a more meaningful and useful comparison.
aksdad
1 / 5 (6) Jun 04, 2017
First of all, to educate those who may not know better, CO2 isn't "dirty pollution." It's an essential nutrient for virtually every plant on earth. Second, the U.S. remains among the cleanest countries on earth as REAL pollution (carbon monoxide, sulphuric dioxide, lead, ozone, particulates, etc.) continues to decline. See here:

https://www.epa.gov/air-trends

Lastly, despite not signing any of the ridiculous "treaties" (yeah, Congress has to approve those) that preached carbon reductions but in reality did virtually nothing to reduce it, the U.S. is one of the world leaders in actually reducing CO2 and methane emissions. Didn't know that? 'Course not. Because it happened through technological innovation, not government regulation, which tells you everything you need to know about the real motivation and goals of the "green" lobby. See here:

https://www.yalec...issions/
gkam
2.2 / 5 (6) Jun 04, 2017
Yeah, we used technological innovation to clean up, so why are you opposed to it?

It took help from the government,but now we are over that hurdle and have developed systems which are much better, cleaner, cheaper, and more appropriate for the 21st Century.

The power we get with our PV system results in society getting peak power from me at extremely low rates, right in the local distribution system where it is needed. And it will last for DECADES!

Technology has made political prejudice against renewables irrelevant.

Want numbers for the need? Go here:

http://www.ipcc.c...ar5/wg1/
EmceeSquared
4 / 5 (4) Jun 04, 2017
hemlock:
Yes, we have


No, the US spewing 237x more than Sweden spews is the article's direct correction of Trump's claim that the US is the cleanest country, addressing just one of the many ways it is not. There are reasons the US spews 237x more, but those just prove the correction, not undermine it.

Per capita isn't really meaningful, since CO2 isn't produced per person but rather concentrated in industry. US 2014 GDP was 30x Sweden's, so US CO2:GDP was about 8x as CO2 intensive. That is the real measure: Sweden's economy is about 12.8% of the US economy's pollution rate.

Meanwhile Sweden is committed to being carbon neutral by 2045, while the US is not. And as of this week is committed to destroying Sweden and the rest of the world with our pollution.
EmceeSquared
4.4 / 5 (7) Jun 04, 2017
aksdad:
First


Water is essential to all life, but too much drowns us. Duh.

The reason the USA isn't as clean in CO2 as it is in other pollution is because trolls like you interfere with making industry clean. There were trolls like you before when we cleaned up our lead pollution, our CFCs pollution and others - always the same trollery.

Because polluter corporations invented that propaganda playbook generations ago, and trolls like you still either fall for it, embrace it for pay or for bankrupt ideology, for crazy/stupid/evil reasons to be so harmfully wrong, or a stinky combo of those selections.

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