Dissecting Trump: U.S. is “the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth.” Umm, No.Science Features Trump
Following up on one of the dumbest decisions made by a U.S. president since one tried—and is still trying—to ban an entire religion from entering the country, President Donald Trump continued his bone-headed decision-making by deciding to leave the Paris Agreement with an equally boneheaded claim: that the U.S. is already “the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth.”
It’s a nice soundbite if it weren’t for the fact that it’s as much bullshit as a literal bull turd.
“The cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth” produces more pollution per capita than just about everyone else in the world.
“The cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth” outranks everyone in per capita carbon dioxide pollution except those 569,000 schlupp-eating motherfuckers in Luxembourg. And “the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth” vomits 237 times more CO2 into the atmosphere than those socialists in Sweden—according to the Energy Department.
“The cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth” is a sham and yet another “alternative fact” from the man who spews more “alternative facts” than the head of Herbalife.
For starters, the United States pollutes more per capita than both China and India (the world’s two biggest polluters).
In his speech renouncing the Paris Agreement, Trump ragged on China’s pollution problem, “14 days of carbon emissions from China alone would wipe out the gains from America—and this is an incredible statistic—would totally wipe out the gains from America’s expected reductions in the year 2030.”
Someone should tell Trump that the U.S. already pollutes more per capita than both China. Someone should also tell Trump that the U.S. is responsible for 29 percent of all human CO2 emissions over the past 150 years. That’s triple China’s share. But let’s keep blaming China for our own country’s faults. Maybe at some point, we can finally blame ‘em for the Great Depression or the genocide of the Native Americans, too.
Compared to other developed countries, the U.S. carbon and pollution problem looks even more obvious. Impressively,America spews 237 times more CO2 into the air than Scandinavian countries like Sweden, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The picture looks even more grim when you look at per capita CO2 pollution, where the average American emits 17.3 metric tons of CO2. The average Swede, by comparison, emits 4.5 metric tons.
“The U.S. is well behind other countries in having the cleanest and most sustainable environment,” said Rosina Bierbaum, an environmental scientist at the University of Michigan, in an interview with the AP.
In fact, the United States is about as “clean” and “environmentally friendly” as Azerbaijan, which is damn impressive because Azerbaijan is a country where only 85 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water and 60 percent has Internet access.
Of course, if we’re judging by that criteria, the U.S. has Flint.
A quick glance at the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which assess each nation’s water and air quality, biodiversity, agricultural outputs, and climate change efforts, indicates just how poor the U.S. performs from an environmental perspective.
Among key environmental issues, the U.S. ranks 26th overall (largely thanks to access to water and electricity), but we also rank 43rd in air quality, 90th in air pollution, and 44th in climate and energy policies. Perhaps the saving grace on the list is the water quality ranking which places us in 22nd—take that well-water-drinking Azerbaijanis.
By European standards, this ranking places the U.S. comfortably near the bottom of the list right next to Bulgaria. Unlike most European countries like Finland and Iceland and Latvia and Lithuania and all of those former Soviet Bloc countries that sound more like guttural onomatopoeias than actual nations, which have begun phasing out coal subsidies and fossil fuel consumption, the United States has increased subsidies by 35 percent since 2009—only Mother Russia tops the U.S. there. Based on Trump’s love-affair with coal, that number will surely rise in the coming years.
Despite a consensus effort around the world (e.g. Paris Agreement) to reform environmental standards, the EPI explicitly states that attempts to reduce fossil fuel dependence “have failed to make headway in Congress,” largely because the government and corporations “often hide subsidies [in divergent legislation], further obscuring the issue and thwarting action.” Just like the time Representative Lee Terry (R-Neb.) tried to attach the Keystone Pipeline decision to the bill to extend the payroll tax holiday.
How well the U.S. actually rank among the “cleanest” and most “environmentally friendly” 180 countries of the world?
The Yanks are first in access to electricity and first in “nitrogen balance,” the country’s only number one rankings.
Beyond that, the States are 19th in “Environmental Risk Exposure,” a ranking that assesses the hazards to human health posed by environmental risk factors like unsafe water, unsafe sanitation, particle pollution, household air pollution, and ozone pollution. It’s basically the ranking for “how much is the environment fucking over the people of each country.” Turns out: The U.S. ain’t too bad.
Concerning the nation’s air quality, things get a little shakier. The U.S. air quality ranks 43rd in the world, a fairly middling number considering 47 percent of the country is uninhabited.
That said, the U.S. comes in 22nd for clean water and sanitation, which means few people fall ill from dysentery like in the days of the Oregon Trail. Still though, the country’s wastewater treatment, at 42nd, is worse than Lebanon’s, which means that developing countries recycle water better than America.
Agriculturally, the country pollutes too much nitrogen, which can degrade air and water quality, lead to ozone layer depletion, and, ultimately, exacerbate climate change. The U.S.’s agriculture industry ranks 40th in environmental efficiency.
Worse, the America is eliminating forests, fish stocks, and biodiversity at an alarming rate, coming in 105th at protecting forests, 84th at protecting fisheries, and 90th in biodiversity and habitat protection. Based on Trump’s love affair with coal mining and his proposed plan to blow off mountain tops in national parks, this ranking will likely trend further downwards in the foreseeable future.
The country’s worst ranking, though, occurs in the nation’s ability to reduce carbon emissions per unit GDP and kWh electricity generation. Here, the U.S. sits near dead last at 128th in the world.
Based on the facts, if Trump wants to claim that America is “the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth,” then so can Azerbaijan, so can the Czech Republic, so can, based on carbon emissions, the fucking Congo, because that’s where the U.S.’s environmental standards actually fall.
Top photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0
Tom Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.