United States Checkup

United States—Falling Behind

While under President Obama, the U.S. was on the right track to meeting its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by 2025, President Trump has already begun the process of reversing many of Obama’s crucial policies. Current projections estimate that at best, the U.S. will see a small increase in GHG emissions from current levels, and at worst, a large increase from current levels that matches the pathway projected prior to the enactment of Obama’s climate change regulations. Climate Advisers hosts a series of projections on its website, which can be found in the “Learn More” links below. The projections separate Obama-era regulations into “highly vulnerable,” “moderately vulnerable,” and “vulnerable,” based on how easily they can be undercut by executive orders or repealed through the Congressional Review Act. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the emissions reductions from Obama’s policies are at risk to be negated with little to no legal protections. Many of these originally projected reductions are based on policies that intended to phase out the use of coal to generate electricity, but the Trump Administration has openly supported reversing these policies in favor of new regulations that expand coal mining and use. As much as 48% of the projected emissions reduction by 2025 could be reversed if coal is promoted as a fuel, rather than phased out, according to an article in Climate Home (see below).

The Trump administration has also withdrawn the US from the Paris Agreement.

According to the Climate Action Tracker, the U.S. is rated “moderate” in its commitments, “meaning that it is not yet consistent with limiting warming to below 2°C, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit.” However, the tracker notes, “If the current policy scenario under the Trump Administration were to be codified as an NDC, the rating would drop to ‘inadequate.” In line with this assessment, the Citizens Climate Agreement Campaign rates the US two stars, and notes the inadequacy of its NDCs on the global scale.

The current President had made his position of opposition to renewable energy and GHG emissions reductions very clear. While the trackers referenced above have not shifted to mirror the uncertain political climate, it is unlikely that the US will meet its commitments, and is highly likely that it will begin “backsliding,” even increasing its emissions overall from current and past levels.

The silver lining is that in the US private sector investments in renewables are growing, as is consumer demand for environmentally responsible products. Hopefully, the private sector will be able to make up some of the projected increase in emissions. However, since a major source of emissions is from coal-fired electricity generation, it is not likely that the private sector will be able to make up for all the difference.

Learn More

Climate Advisers’ assessment of risk from pulling out of agreement (includes graphic):
http://www.climateadvisers.com/trumpbacktracker/
Potential for US to “backslide” on its commitments without pulling out entirely:
http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/05/09/climate-advocates-bonn-stumped-trump-dilemma/
Effects on global diplomacy of pulling out of the agreement:
http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/05/09/china-warns-trump-leaving-paris-accord-risks-bad-deals-g7-g20/
Tillerson endorses action to protect Arctic from climate change:
http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/05/12/us-endorses-global-action-curb-greenhouse-gases-arctic-summit/
Advisors want to stay in the agreement to “have a seat at the table,” while others want to pull out entirely:
http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/05/10/us-no-longer-worthy-paris-agreement/