The United States took a lot of heat from Germany and other nations for withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, so we should be forgiven for feeling a sense of schadenfreude last week when Germany’s Federal Administrative Court ruled that cities could legally ban diesel cars and trucks in an effort to meet air pollution limits.
After all, that ruling came less than two weeks after Carnegie Mellon University found that the United States met the Clean Power Plan’s (CPP) 2025 carbon emission reduction targets last year and that “the U.S. power sector could meet the Paris Agreement goals even without the Clean Power Plan.” Germany, meanwhile, is poised for a “spectacular miss” of their 2020 greenhouse gas emissions-reduction target.
The key to the United States’ success is natural gas.
“To be sure,” the report states, “while other factors (such as renewable energy incentives) also had an impact, the clearest means by which to reduce CO2 emissions has been to reduce the cost of generating electricity with less CO2-emitting fuels (i.e., substituting natural gas for coal).
“So successful have market forces been under the existing regulatory framework to date that estimated 2017 CO2 emission levels are already at the CPP’s 2025 target … well exceeding the [U.S. Energy Information Administration’s] own projections for 2025.”
In fact, according to the 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, the U.S. is leading the world in CO2 emissions reductions. Annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest decline of any country in the world and almost larger than the decline for the entire European Union (770 million metric tons) during that same period.
And once again, the vast majority of the emissions decline in the U.S. is attributed directly to natural gas replacing coal in power generation, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
And while we’re busy leading the world in CO2 reduction, the countries still in the Paris Climate Accord are having a very difficult time meeting their own goals. The United Kingdom is on track to miss its 2030 carbon emissions target. Ireland is going to miss its 2020 climate targets “by more than expected.” The Netherlands will also miss their 2020 target and fear they “will still be bungling at the bottom of European lists in 2030." And, of course, Germany will miss its 2020 target, dealing a “significant blow to Germany’s climate policy” and its climate chancellor Angela Merkel.
Some people—particularly those who embrace the radical Keep It in the Ground philosophy—often experience weltschmerz (depression caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an imagined ideal state). To make themselves feel better, they often pursue luftschlӧsser (unrealistic dreams) but end up verschlimmbessern (making something worse in the very act of trying to improve it).
Perhaps if the rest of the world followed our lead and let market forces work within a commonsense regulatory framework we could all greatly reduce carbon emissions and enjoy geborgenheit (a sense of security and well-being).