Welcome to the Earth.Org Global Sustainability Index, where Earth.Org examines the policies and actions regarding the environment of every nation on earth. Combining the most respected global indexes on pollution, climate change, policy, energy, oceans, biodiversity we have produced an overall Global Index, which will be updated annually. This is the Global Sustainability Index scorecard for the United States.
Politics impede the United State’s prospects of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The current administration seems invested in dismantling past policies that would mitigate the climate crisis; as of May 2020, the administration has rolled back nearly 100 environmental regulations and has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. The country emits 15% of the world’s emissions and is the world’s largest producer of natural gas.
Ironically, while President Trump has spoken of reviving the coal industry, records reveal that the average annual coal capacity retirements during Obama’s terms were 4.2 Gigawatts from 2009-12 and 9.2 Gigawatts from 2013-2016, respectively. Yet, President Trump’s first term saw a retirement of 11.7 Gigawatts, higher than either of Obama’s terms, while pledging to do the opposite. This shows no signs of faltering either, with a record breaking 14 Gigawatts of coal capacity expected to be retired in 2019. Additionally, renewable energy is projected to increase.
- The US is the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, accounting for nearly 15% of global GHG emissions.
- In 2018, the country overtook Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of crude oil. It is also the world’s largest producer of natural gas.
- Its Paris Agreement pledges set a target of reducing its emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Although the Trump administration formally communicated its intent to withdraw from the Agreement and stop implementing its NDC, the target remains legally in place until November 4 2020.
- The Trump administration has expressed intentions to revive the coal industry, relaxed requirements for more energy-efficient lightbulbs, proposed freezing vehicle efficiency standards after 2020 and allowing methane leaks from oil and gas production to continue for longer before they are found and fixed, passed a rule to ignore new regulations limiting hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions, proposed weakening emissions standards for new coal-fired power plants and instructed government agencies to change their climate science methodology.
- The USA never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and its target of reducing emissions by 7% below 1990 levels from 2008-2012 never came into force.
- The government projects renewables to reach 24% in 2030 and 31% in 2050.
- The Green New Deal resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives in February 2019 by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which called for economy-wide action to reach net-zero GHG emissions. It did not get Senate approval to move forward into any kind of law.
You might also like: Global Emissions (2016)
Biodiversity, Policy: Sachs, J., Schmidt-Traub, G., Kroll, C., Lafortune, G., Fuller, G. (2019): Sustainable Development Report 2019. New York: Bertelsmann Stiftung and Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
Oceans: Halpern, Benjamin S., et al. “An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean.” Nature 488.7413 (2012): 615-620.
Pollution: Wendling, Z. A., Emerson, J. W., Esty, D. C., Levy, M. A., de Sherbinin, A., et al. (2018). 2018 Environmental Performance Index. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy. https://epi.yale.edu/
Climate Change: Climate Change Performance Index; Jan Burck, Ursula Hagen, Niklas Höhne, Leonardo Nascimento, Christoph Bals, ISBN 978-3-943704-75-4, 2019
Energy: Enerdata –World Energy Statistics – Yearbook.