The agonizing in some circles over the United States’ planned withdrawal from the Paris agreement on climate control already is reaching ear-piercing levels and prompting proclamations from a few elected officials and some radical advocacy groups that the pullout is a “dark day” for the country.
But the hand-wringing is unnecessary and flies in the face of clear and compelling facts that continue to go under-reported: With or without the Paris pact, the United States is already leading the world in emissions reductions and is more than half way toward reaching its goals under the accord.
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Simply let the factual evidence tell the story of U.S. leadership on the environmental front. By 2025, we will be more than two-thirds of the way to reaching the Paris agreement objectives of reducing our emissions by 26-28 percent from 2005 levels, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The United States reduced almost twice as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than any other nation in 2017. That year, we made the single-largest reduction of carbon dioxide on an absolute basis, a reality that even Inside Climate News had to acknowledge.
In fact, the United States has reduced its carbon dioxide-equivalent output, on an annual basis, by almost as much as the entire European Union since 2005, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. On an annual basis, that works out to a reduction of 760 million metric tons per year versus the 770 million for the whole E.U.
Compare that progress with those of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter: China. China, you’ll recall, did not pledge any overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the Paris agreement. By 2030, it only promised that it will have reached peak carbon dioxide emissions.
In other words, they will climb no higher by 2030. The Climate Action Tracker estimates by that date, China’s emissions will have surged between 14 and 25 percent.
That’s important context to understand just how much progress the United States has made and demonstrates why the Paris agreement is not as important as actual results.
Starting with a 2005 baseline through 2017, our overall greenhouse gas emissions have fallen an impressive 12 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Carbon dioxide fell 14 percent, methane dropped 5 percent, and nitrous oxide declined 4.1 percent.
And we can keep this environmental track record going strong on our own.
In addition, our trucking industry alone has cut particulate emissions by over 98 percent and fuel consumption in new heavy-duty trucks by up to 23 percent through efficiency improvements, and it has a target of reducing emissions by an additional 25 percent by 2027.
Similar gains are occurring across the private sector with significant environmental stewardship in manufacturing, energy and chemicals. This is what happens when American industry, government and other stakeholders team up to solve problems: We get results.
So why all the angst? According to the goals set just four years ago, the United States is making incredible progress — with more progress on the way.
Some naysayers also like to make ideologically motivated arguments about methane and natural gas. Even there, U.S. leadership and innovation shines through.
From 1990 to 2017, methane emissions from natural gas systems fell 14 percent while production surged by more than 50 percent. If you do the math, that works out to an effective reduction of 43 percent.
We could go on, but the facts are clear. This environmental progress has been made while the United States is producing more oil and natural gas than ever before in our history — helping families and business all across the nation keep homes warm and economies thriving. This clearly demonstrates that the energy production that keeps our strong economy growing can and should happen alongside sound environmental stewardship.
We agree on one critical and inarguable point: The Paris agreement was a start, but not a finish line. But the United States has already sprinted ahead of the pack, and that’s made the agreement itself secondary to the real goal: making measurable strides for the global environment.
The United States already is well along the path Paris set out, and the rest of the world should follow. The United States is indeed a world leader — showing other nations how to be good stewards of our environment, while recognizing that we have more to accomplish.
We’ve developed a practical, real-world energy and climate action plan. It leaves no one behind, and it’s working.
David Holt is a founder and president of Houston-based Consumer Energy Alliance, which represents energy consumers including families, farmers, manufacturers and small businesses.
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