In almost any other political environment, the United States would be the hero of this story — we are a world leader in reducing pollution (even as the economy roars ahead and people prosper) and our environment is cleaner than ever.
At the same time, the draconian actions of the world’s self-proclaimed climate leaders (similar to proposals here at home like the Green New Deal) have resulted in negligible environmental effects, while taxing their citizenry into energy poverty and premodern conditions.
You won’t hear any of this as the usual pundits offer their takes on President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Giving thanks for Thanksgiving itself Immigration provision in Democrats' reconciliation bill makes no sense MORE’s speech last week. But it’s true. And if the rest of the world would follow America’s lead, economies, people and the environment would all benefit.
First, pollution levels are at their lowest point on record, according to the EPA itself. Its latest data on the presence of six different types of pollutants — ozone, nitrous oxide, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead — the ones actually shown to harm human health — are down a whopping 73 percent since the EPA began keeping records in 1970.
It’s no mystery why. Rather than depriving Americans of the energy we need, our country uses new technology to improve efficiency in fossil-fueled power plants and refineries, as well as improved manufacturing techniques.
In other words, the free market and American innovation has led to cleaner and safer energy production and, therefore, less pollution.
Yet the gains America has made environmentally all come at a time when our economy is running full-bore. To be consistent with that EPA data, a look back to 2005 shows that the U.S. had about 133 million people working in nonfarm jobs. As of December 2018, that number is more than 150 million.
In other words, even as our employment boomed (and productivity boomed, as well), our pollution decreased. Our air is cleaner than ever — and our improvements have far outpaced those of other developed nations — even those that enacted big and bold climate change policies.
Take Germany, for example. As Der Spiegel reported comprehensively in May, “In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the country was turning away from nuclear energy in favor of a renewable future. Since then, however, progress has been limited. Berlin has wasted billions of euros and resistance is mounting.”
Germans now pay 46 percent more for electricity — meaning that demand for electricity is down (along with GDP). As a study of 18 developed nations published in the journal Nature Climate Change explains, “We show that within this group, the displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy and decreases in energy use explain decreasing CO2 emissions. However, the decrease in energy use can be explained at least in part by a lower growth in gross domestic product.”
The reality is that Germany’s poor are being priced out of their modern lifestyles and experiencing energy poverty. Throughout the EU, energy poverty now affects about 50 million people. It’s so bad that “as of 2020, there will be no EU-level data [collected] on summertime cooling,” that report says, despite the fact that a heat wave in 2003 killed 15,000 in France alone. The EU apparently doesn’t even want to know the harm caused by their green policies.
The simple fact is that the climate crusade isn’t working. What is working — as the United States demonstrates — is abundant, reliable, and affordable energy that allows families to prosper, and the freedom that allows industry to innovate.
The U.S. isn’t the villain of this story — though you’ll hear otherwise in the wake of the president’s Monday announcement. We’re the good guys with a track record of success worth celebrating.
Robert Henneke is general counsel and litigation director at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Follow him on Twitter @robhenneke.