Myth: Americans do not care about the environment
Fact: America has adopted numerous policies with a view to environmental protection, including a host of uniquely stringent restrictions on domestic drilling. As of 2008, 23 laws aimed at environmental protection have been passed at the federal level, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Energy Policy Act, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, the Ocean Dumping Act, the Pollution Prevention Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. When it came to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, the US led efforts to ban chlorofluorocarbons which were destroying the stratospheric ozone. America disproportionately funds environmental activities undertaken by the United Nations and other bodies.
Myth: America’s high per capita energy use demonstrates particularly high
levels of waste
Fact: Using energy is not the same as wasting energy. America’s high per capita energy use is a consequence of a high per capita production of goods and services rather than being attributable simply to waste. Further, some level of higher individual energy use among Americans is explicable in terms of the geographical differences between the United States and other Western nations: greater distances to traverse, and regions with very hot summers or very cold winters.
Myth: American carbon emissions are uniquely high, and growth in US emissions
continues to outstrip growth in most other countries
Fact: While America was far and away the largest emitter in the twentieth century, China either has or soon will surpass the United States as the world’s largest emitting nation, and the rate of emissions growth among it and other rapidly developing nations is greater than that of the US. Carbon emissions in non-OECD countries currently exceed by almost 20% emissions in the thirty mainly Western economies, including America’s, that make up the OECD. Emissions in non-OECD economies account for 55% of total emissions, and this share is expected to exceed two-thirds of all emissions by 2018. The success of any program to stabilize atmospheric concentrations therefore hinges largely on the rest of the world.
Myth: American efforts on the environment are fatally compromised by failure to
adopt a cap-and-trade or mandatory emissions reductions programme, and by the decision to
stay out of Kyoto
Fact: The Kyoto approach of mandatory targets, achieved in the EU through its cap and trade program, is proving to be problematic, with few nations on target to meet their compliance targets. Instead of falling 8% below 1990 levels, on current trends, emissions in the EU-15 countries will be 5% higher by 2030. Europe’s position has now moved closer to American opposition to the Kyoto Treaty’s exemption for developing nations such as China and India, an exemption which makes achieving overall reductions much more difficult. The Major Economies Meeting and the Asia Pacific Partnership represent two US-initiated alternatives, as does America’s investment in research into new technologies that will allow for reduced carbon emissions and continued use of affordable energy.
Myth: America is doing nothing to combat climate change
Fact: Though not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, America has embarked on renewable fuels mandates and stringent new motor vehicle fuel economy standards - policies that will impose significant costs in the name of reducing greenhouse gases. Other programs like Methane to Markets have also made significant progress. America also funds a range of climate-related research - both scientific research as well as research and development into new carbon-friendly technologies like carbon capture and sequestration.
Where the US government has not taken action at the national level, many states have
taken the lead themselves in introducing environmental legislation. California, the
largest state, passed its own Global Warming Solutions Act in 2006, and the following year began an Alternative
and Renewable Fuel & Vehicle Technology Program. By May 2008, 6 states had introduced a
state wide cap on greenhouse gas emissions, and 19 had set an emissions target.
 'China now no. 1 in CO2 emissions; USA in second position', Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, at http://www.mnp.nl/en/dossiers/Climatechange/moreinfo/Chinanowno1inCO2emissionsUSAinsecondposition.html
 'The Carbon Tariff', Jeff Rubin and Benjamin Tal, StrategEcon, CIBC World Markets, 27 March 2008, at http://research.cibcwm.com/economic_public/download/smar08.pdf
 'State Targets and Caps', U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, last updated 25 June 2008, at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/stateandlocalgov/state_target_cap.html