Truth-O-Meter: Half-True: Partially accurate, but excludes important context.
In June of 2017, Donald Trump made the drastic decision to pull the United States out of the long negotiated Paris Agreement. While this may have not been a major surprise, as he was often vocal about his uncertainty behind the facts of climate change, it is nevertheless embarrassing and disheartening for many U.S. citizens. Under the Paris Agreement, the United States had pledged its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce net GHG emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels. This was already a fairly lofty goal, and will now be impossible to complete.
In a letter to Professor Leary, Donald Trump accounts some of his many reasons for leaving this agreement. Due to Donald Trump’s tendency towards bending the truth, it is time to assess which segments of his letter are true and which are not. In his third paragraph Donald writes, “America has led the world in carbon dioxide reductions even as we have continued to expand our energy production”. After conducting research, it is clear that while this might be true, it isn’t as positive a statement as it appears.
America is long recognized as being one of the biggest carbon dioxide emitters, due to our excessively consumptive society. Recently surpassed by China, the United States is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the world. The majority of these emissions come from burning fuel for energy, with other secondary causes such as agriculture, industry, and waste (Climate Action Tracker).
The United States has indeed begun leading the world in carbon dioxide reductions. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), our total emissions in 2015 were 2.5% lower than in 2014 and 12.2% lower than they were in 2007, their peak.This is due to the shift in our reliance for energy from coal to natural gas. Natural gas is extracted from the earth through a process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. While this has resulted in a decrease in our overall annual emissions, fracking is also highly disruptive to our environment and health. The natural gas is released by drilling and pumping water, sand, and chemicals deep, horizontally into bedrock. This in turn, creates fractures in the rock and allows for extraction (Natural Gas Extraction – Hydraulic Fracturing).
There are several critical issues that accompany fracking. First, fracking is known to contaminate water. The chemicals used in the fracking process are highly toxic and can leak into wells and poison common drinking water. Fracking also causes polluted air, through the release of greenhouse gases, and some organic compounds. In addition, it destroys land use and local habitats, along with being linked to low-magnitude earthquakes (Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas)
In addition, natural gas is far from clean energy. While it has fewer greenhouse gas emissions than coal, it is imperative that we turn towards renewable energy if we wish to keep temperature increase between 2 degrees Celsius, as many scientists have insisted. While it releases about 50 to 60 percent fewer carbon dioxide than coal, natural gas has a higher chance of releasing methane, a greenhouse has much stronger than carbon dioxide. In order to reverse the damage thrust upon our environment, we must turn our reliance towards renewable energies, such as wind, solar, and hydro with no greenhouse gas emissions (Climate Action Tracker).
Fracking explained: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uti2niW2BRA
Interactive map of U.S. fracking locations and “fraccidents”: https://earthjustice.org/features/campaigns/fracking-across-the-united-states
Milman, Oliver. “US Emissions Set to Miss 2025 Target in Paris Climate Change Deal, Research Finds.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Sept. 2016, www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/26/us-climate-change-emissions-miss-2025-target-research. Accessed September 8th, 2016.
Climate Action Tracker. “Foot off the Gas: Increased Reliance on Natural Gas in the Power Sector Risks an Emissions Lock-In.” CLIMATE ACTION TRACKER, 22 June 2017, climateactiontracker.org/news/282/Foot-off-the-gas-increased-reliance-on-natural-gas-in-the-power-sector-risks-an-emissions-lock-in.html. Accessed September 8th, 2016.
“Natural Gas Extraction – Hydraulic Fracturing.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 30 Dec. 2016, www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing. Accessed September 8th, 2016.
“Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas.” Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/environmental-impacts-of-natural-gas#.WbLqH9N940o. Accessed September 8th, 2016.