The United States: Pollution, Overconsumption, and Inaction.

FFF Digital Team
Fridays for Future Digital
4 min readApr 27, 2021

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By: Parker Schwarzkopf- Intersectional climate activist at FFF Digital

Historically, the United States has been the top polluter of CO2. Only recently has China surpassed the United States in emissions, but a percentage of Chinese emissions can be traced back to the production of American products (the same could be said for many other countries). Beyond that, MAPA (most affected people and areas)countries are disproportionately impacted by the emissions from countries like the US. The disproportionate amount of emissions coming from wealthy, developed countries has unfairly thrust the worst consequences of the climate crisis onto vulnerable, undeserving countries. Top emitter countries have the luxury to view the climate crisis as a “future crisis or problem”, but for MAPA it is a current crisis that is destroying communities, creating humanitarian crises, causing food insecurity, etc. Every day, MAPAs are suffering from extreme weather events- such as floods, storms, droughts fires, cyclones, typhoons, lethal heat waves, and more- directly caused by climate change. The problems are also compounded when the economic effects of these events (on MAPA countries) are taken into consideration. In many ways, directly or indirectly, climate change threatens livelihoods in these countries. Thus, Americans have a responsibility to help mitigate the problems caused by climate change.

As of right now, America is still completely dependent on fossil fuels and non-renewable energy sources. According to the New York Times, the typical American burns twice as much fossil fuels as the average person in Europe and 10 times as much as the average person in India. Why do Americans use so much energy? The answer is simple, there is little to no incentive to change behaviors and the energy system is riddled with inefficiency. For example, The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory conducted a study in 2018 and found that ⅔ of all energy is wasted, through heat exhaust for example. Additionally, The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory study concluded that “only 34.5% of the energy used by the electric power industry reaches end users as electricity”; while being generated and distributed, the rest is lost.

Although previous administrations have chosen to ignore climate change and subsequent issues, the Biden administration can no longer afford to do so. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 77% of Americans believe the development of alternative, clean energy sources is more important than the production of coal, oil, and fossil fuels. This shift in ideology is a promising start, but making real, implemented changes will be difficult considering all of the gridlock surrounding climate legislation. Despite the challenges, the Biden administration has made many ambitious promises. According to his campaign platform, within his first year as President, Biden has demanded that Congress enact legislation that “1) establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025, 2) makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation, 3) incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.” In his proposed plan, Biden acknowledges that the US has much to do by 2025 and needs to invest in research and incentives. Though all of that sounds wonderful, the follow-through on his statements is what will mark his presidency.

The United States has ignored its role in the Earth’s climate emergency for far too long. It is time for America to take ownership of the effects of its legacy of pollution and help slow climate change. Although the Biden administration has big promises to fulfill to its own constituents and to the world, it is crucial that there is follow-through and “real” action that follows. We must also prioritize justice and equity in any plans to combat the climate crisis. Thus, The US and other top emitters have significant responsibility and need to be held accountable.

Sources:

  1. Gillis, Justin, and Nadja Popovich. “The U.S. Is the Biggest Carbon Polluter in History. It Just Walked Away From the Paris Climate Deal.” New York Times, 1 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/01/climate/us-biggest-carbon-polluter-in-history-will-it-walk-away-from-the-paris-climate-deal.html.
  2. DeSilver, Drew. “Renewable Energy Is Growing Fast in the U.S., but Fossil Fuels Still Dominate.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/01/15/renewable-energy-is-growing-fast-in-the-u-s-but-fossil-fuels-still-dominate/.
  3. “Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice: Joe Biden.” Joe Biden for President: Official Campaign Website, 29 Oct. 2020, joebiden.com/climate-plan/.

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FFF Digital Team
Fridays for Future Digital

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