05 June 2017

America's environmental clean-up bill is overdue.

From the year 1900 through the latest data available from 2011, America is responsible for over 28% of all industrialized carbon emissions in the world. (SPREADSHEET made possible thanks to CAIT climate data.) Based on carbon pollution information, if we were to assume the United States did not exist, the world would have 31 additional years to resolve the climate crisis.

This information is not intended to be anti-American since I assume most of the world is happy to not be speaking German or Russian as their primary language. On the whole, the United States has been a force for good on our planet that has raised the quality of life for most of humanity through technology and prevention of another world war. It should also be noted that, without American satellite technology, the world may not have known about our perilous situation until 31 more years had passed, thereby erasing any benefit from the absence of our carbon pollution.

However, this information is critical when evaluating our responsibility to repair, or at least mitigate, the damage caused by our emissions. When a political leader speaks about how a climate deal punishes the United States, we must acknowledge the "punishment" every other country faces due to the total history of our pollution. The richest country in the world is responsible for over a quarter of the pollution so the bare minimum should involve us covering our 28% of the bill for a solution. Considering the financial benefit gained by our emissions in the past century, we probably could afford to cover the 20% gratuity, too.