How America Stacks Up When It Comes to Greenhouse Gas Emissions
he 2015 Paris climate agreement represents one of the first attempts at a truly global response to the threat of climate change. For nearly two years, the pact has linked almost every country in the joint effort to cut back greenhouse gas emissions and stave off human-influenced climate change. As of yesterday, that effort does not include the United States.
President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that the U.S.—a major player on the climate scene and one of the treaty's de facto leaders—would be pulling out of the historic pact. “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” he announced at a press conference at the White House Rose Garden.
The controversial decision makes the U.S. one of just three countries that are not part of the voluntary agreement, the other two being Syria and Nicaragua. It also reverses the past administration’s efforts on climate change, following recent actions to begin dismantling Obama-era climate protection policies.
But it doesn't take America out of the climate equation. No matter how you crunch the numbers, the U.S. still ranks among the top greenhouse gas emitters in the world. Based on data from the European Commission, Joint Research Center/Netherlands Environmental Agency and Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research, the top five emitters in what’s known as "carbon dioxide equivalents" (CO2 eq) released in 2012 are as follows:
China (12.45 million kilotons CO2 eq)
United States (6.34 million kilotons CO2 eq)
India (3.00 million kilotons CO2 eq)
Brazil (2.99 million kilotons CO2 eq)
Russian Federation (2.80 million kilotons CO2 eq)
Importantly, these numbers are based on CO2 equivalents. That means they include all the greenhouse gases a country emits—including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated compounds—to reflect the fact that warming results from a combination of gases released from both natural and human activities. By measuring emissions in equivalents, scientists can take into account the differing impacts of each of these gases on the atmosphere.