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United States Science

The US Is the Biggest Carbon Polluter in History (nytimes.com) 465

Justin Gillis, and Nadja Popovich, writing for The New York Times: The United States, with its love of big cars, big houses and blasting air-conditioners, has contributed more than any other country to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet. "In cumulative terms, we certainly own this problem more than anybody else does," said David G. Victor, a longtime scholar of climate politics at the University of California, San Diego. Many argue that this obligates the United States to take ambitious action to slow global warming. Against that backdrop, factions in the Trump administration are engaged in a heated debate over whether to remain a party to the 195-nation agreement on climate change reached in Paris in 2015. President Trump promised on Wednesday to announce his decision at 3 p.m Thursday in the White House Rose Garden. A decision to walk away from the accord would be a momentous setback, in practical and political terms, for the effort to address climate change. Several news outlets, citing people in the administration, reported on Wednesday that the US is likely to pull out of the agreement.
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The US Is the Biggest Carbon Polluter in History

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  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @10:43AM (#54525137) Journal
    Australia (per capita), a country that faces a similar geographic situation.
    • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @11:02AM (#54525349)

      So big countries with high per capita production have high per capita carbon emissions? I guess carbon emissions must be related to production and living standards then, with lower carbon emissions correlated to lower standards of living.

      Do you think this is why there might be some resistance to schemes to reduce carbon emissions at any cost?

      • Yes, pretty much. I don't have a problem with that. If you are so concerned you can give up your standard of living and stay in a yurt.
        • by Kohath ( 38547 )

          Not me. I'm not a religious environmentalist, so my energy use isn't a sin.

          • I have a friend who is a vegan for environmental and ethical reasons, yet she has a dog that eats meat and has the same carbon footprint as an SUV. Everyone justifies their shit. At the end of the day there is a limited amount you can do locally. Keep your own neighborhood clean and pollutant free. Large, strategic changes need to come at the societal level. We've had fantastic success with market-driven pollutant credit systems. Not sure where the sudden opposition to these comes from just because it is ca

        • If you are so concerned you can give up your standard of living and stay in a yurt.

          Or, you could shut down your coal-powered power stations and replace them with wind, solar and, yes, natural gas; which the USA is doing already.

          We don't need (or even want) to get down to zero carbon emissions.

      • By this logic, the top 3 most productive and best countries to live in on Earth [wikipedia.org] are Qatar, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Netherlands Antilles. Sweden at #74 and France at #65 must be poverty-ridden hellholes.

    • Australia (per capita), a country that faces a similar geographic situation.

      Uh, no, it isn't. And no, it doesn't. Unless you mean "largest, geographically", and I'm guessing that'd be either Russia or China, depending on which territories they're claiming this week.

      • So very helpful. I tell my kids unless they have something to add don't say anything. If we are comparing nations with similar 'western' cultures Australia is the worst. Pedantry is not far from stupidity....
  • You Chose This (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The Trump administration made clear months ago that it would abandon the emissions targets set by Obama, walk away from pledges of money to help poor countries battle global warming, and seek to cut research budgets aimed at finding solutions to climate change.

  • USA #1 Fuck Yeah We're #1!! We're #1! Eat it yuropoors!

  • by fred6666 ( 4718031 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @10:46AM (#54525183)

    So it's not only because the USA has a large population that it is the worst polluter.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      "one" of the worst??? I understood that per capita, it was *the* worst. There are worse countries overall, but they have a greater population than the USA.
      • persian gulf countries such as Qatar do worse per capita

        • And it is not surprising, since air conditioning is always on, hence if the air conditioning is inside a car or a truck, the engine might even be even left on overnight because gas is so cheap, they don't even advertise the prices at the gas station. The cars are also either very old and inefficient (that would be the cars of all the guest workers from india and thailand) or really large (at least from European perspective). Desalination is also a very energy hungry way to get water. All that leads to the a

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "one" of the worst??? I understood that per capita, it was *the* worst. There are worse countries overall, but they have a greater population than the USA.

        No, they're not the worst on a per capita basis. If you look this page [wikipedia.org] you'll see there are a few others ahead of the US. The top three are Qatar, UAE and Kuwait, since they have so much oil. However, given their small populations (they total about 12 million), their contribution is less important than that of the US.

        • Perhaps the only way to get the USA to fight global warming is to tell them they can invade Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait to punish the top polluters.

    • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @11:04AM (#54525363)

      The USA has a unique mix of:

      High Population.
      High Population dispersal. (Low population density means higher per capita).
      Prosperous Economy.
      Combination of Hot Summers and Cold Winters/ continental effect across much of the country (not much off-time for in-building climate regulation).

      So yes, the US has a high per capita carbon pollution, but it's because the people living their are uncaring polluting jerks (although some clearly are), it's because of the unique situation the US is in.

      • Air conditioning takes almost no energy compared to heating. Even if it's 30 C all summer, it's much cheaper to cool than it would be to heat from -20 C. Add to that that AC uses a heat pump instead of inefficient resistive (or fuel burning) heating, and AC costs can almost be considered a rounding error.

        Nordic countries have low population density, harsh winters, prosperous economy and pollute far less per capita (around half I think). But they don't drive pick-up trucks or large SUV 45 minutes each way to

        • a lot of the cooling/heating problems will be reduced massively if all buildings were insulated correctly. its because fuel has been cheap, its be easy to burn
        • Low population density isn't an issue if 99% of your population lives in cities with high population density, and the rest of your country is open space. The USA is rural, nordic countries aren't.

          • The USA is 82% urban, 78% for Norway, 84% for Finland and 86% for Sweden.
            Pretty much equal if you ask me.

        • Nordic countries have low population density, harsh winters, prosperous economy and pollute far less per capita (around half I think).

          Because they can gear up their insulated houses and buildings for winter and hardly ever run the AC, if it even exists. This actually contradicts your opening statement. Norway also has a fairly mild climate in the places that people tend to live. Look at the averages for Oslo [holiday-weather.com]. The coldest average lows are -7 in Jan-Feb. The warmest average high is 22 in July.

          If you are happy with 21 degrees inside, than you don't need to install AC at all. Your heat in the worst month is only going to need to make up for a

      • Those are factors, but for example lots of European countries have fairly big temperature swings over the year but still use a lot less energy because their homes and buildings are well designed and insulated. In fact many European governments had some kind of scheme,either tax or industry funded, to get homes properly insulated at little or no cost to the owner.

        Europe also has requires appliances to be much more efficient. That really helps combat the "bigger = better" mentality that consumers have, e.g. vacuum cleaners with 3000W motors that generate a lot of heat but don't clean any better.

        All that and several EU countries have higher standards of living and quality of life compared to America, so it's not an either/or choice.

      • it's because of the unique situation the US is in.

        Yeah. The unique situation is that energy is cheap so you have no qualms about spewing it into the air for nothing. Seriously your emissions could be reduced a lot by a change in energy consumption practices. Like WTF is it with cooling buildings to the point you need to take a jacket to work in summer? Are you guys too cool for polo shirts? Mind you I do kind of understand that if you a 400hp car to get you to the shopping centre you can spare a few horses to turn on the AC while stuck in traffic.

        Blaming t

  • by Jfetjunky ( 4359471 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @10:48AM (#54525199)
    Can we quit with the hyperbole, please? Climate change research is a serious matter. I know that's all journalists know how to do, but we need everyone to get on board with at least researching this stuff.
    Saying it's "Scorching the Planet" is inflammatory and highly unrelatable to 99% of the people of the Earth, having likely only seen nearly undetectable average temperature increases.

    I'm from the U.S., and you probably wouldn't even have to cite me any sources for me to believe we have generated the most cumulative CO2 of any other country. That doesn't seem like it should be news to anyone..
    • I'm from the U.S., and you probably wouldn't even have to cite me any sources for me to believe we have generated the most cumulative CO2 of any other country. That doesn't seem like it should be news to anyone.

      I'm sure the Europeans will stop using all the outputs of American research and industry any day now, to be ethically consistent.

  • Bullshit propaganda (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 01, 2017 @10:49AM (#54525201)
    The US is also one of the first countries to establish the Environmental Protection agency to explicitly DO something about getting emissions down. Which is why things like smog in Los Angeles is much less a problem today than it was before and we didn't need a worldwide treaty to do it. But I guess the EPA did nothing according to these guys. Nor do I suspect they've bothered to really look into China's carbon emissions or Russia's (which I'm sure China and Russia's governments are open about sharing information and that the information is actually... y'know... factual)
    • We'll see if Trump is in the pocket of Big Solar or Big Oil in a few hours.
      • by es330td ( 964170 )

        We'll see if Trump is in the pocket of Big Solar or Big Oil in a few hours.

        Why does a person have to be in some group or another's pocket to make a decision? I guess it is too much to ask for a person to look at their understanding of a situation and make a decision based on their own rational mind.

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @10:55AM (#54525257) Journal

      The US is also one of the first countries to establish the Environmental Protection agency to explicitly DO something about getting emissions down.

      And the first country to have a jackoff in the White House who turned the EPA into the enforcement arm of the fossil fuel industry and prohibit it from performing its core function.

    • China has a horrible pollution problem but they're working really hard to establish renewables and clean up their act. They've a way to go but they're working in the right direction.

    • The US is also one of the first countries to establish the Environmental Protection agency to explicitly DO something about getting emissions down. Which is why things like smog in Los Angeles is much less a problem today than it was before and we didn't need a worldwide treaty to do it.

      Smog in LA has nothing to do with CO2 emissions.

      If you are going to post about something, please do try to get a clue first.

  • We earned it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We saved the world from Hitler and the Soviets and created air conditioning, internet, mobile phones, air travel, and thousands of other critical inventions. The rest of the world hasn't done much to thank us or help us out in any way.

    So I see no need to feel bad about some CO2. Especially since US emissions are falling faster than other countries due to cheap natural gas from fracking - another great US invention.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 01, 2017 @10:54AM (#54525245)

    As in most Asian metro centres. Such as Beijing, Shanghai, any of China's tier 1 to 3 cities, plus Siberia, pretty much anywhere in India, and the list goes on. Not to mention large parts of Africa and South America.

    Their rate of pollution in any sense is staggering and increasing, while the USA has been better than any of them for 20 odd years if not longer.

    Adding insult to injury the level of ground water pollution, let alone carbon, in those places is staggering.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @10:56AM (#54525269)
    I have been to environmental protests where the event ends and everyone climbs into their SUVs and pickup trucks and drive home. It's hard to get someone to shut down a pipeline when you keep buying their product. We have Three Mile Island nuclear power plant closing down now because the cost to generate electricity with natural gas is so low. We should be protesting coal burning plants, not nuclear ones.
  • While there might be something to your argument that past pollutants were high in the US, it does not translate into the current pollution levels in the US. I've been to major cities all around the world, and in most cases, I would gladly choose to breath U.S. big city air over most other places. Visit Asia much? How about South America?

    I know Slashdot has a long tradition of weekly inflammatory hit pieces on their pet issues, but this is disingenuous. You need to gauge current action and current levels i

    • While there might be something to your argument that past pollutants were high in the US, it does not translate into the current pollution levels in the US. I've been to major cities all around the world, and in most cases, I would gladly choose to breath U.S. big city air over most other places. Visit Asia much? How about South America?

      While true, that says nothing about CO2 and it is CO2 that is the subject of the Paris treaty.

  • It may be true that the US has been the largest contributor to long term CO2 emissions, however since 2005, China has been emitting more CO2 than the US [worldbank.org], and much more.

    Be careful to not just look at CO2 from energy - CO2 from cement production is also important (though typically smaller than energy-related emissions).

  • This is why you have treaties instead of "agreements", so some halfwit doesn't bail because it doesn't fit his agenda.

  • If the con artist does withdraw from the accord we'll be cozy neighbors with Nicaragua and Syria, both of whom are not parties to the accord.

    How wonderful is that? We'll be at the same level as a Muslim dictator. At least Nicaragua had a reason not to agree: they didn't feel the accord went far enough.

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @12:34PM (#54526309)

    ... in framework:

    - Scientists: Tobacco kills
    - Tobacco: Jobs
    - Courts: Tobacco kills
    - Tobacco: Jobs
    --
    - Scientists: Reduce carbon
    - Americans: Jobs
    - Planet: Reduce carbon
    - Americans: jobs

The only difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman is that the car salesman knows he's lying.

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