FACT CHECK: Did The US Reduce Carbon Emissions More Than Any Other Country Last Year?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro claimed that the U.S. reduced its carbon dioxide emissions more than any other country in 2017.

“The United States was the number one country in cutting emissions in the last year when it comes to carbon emissions, largely because of fracking replacing coal. So natural gas fracking is significantly less emitting than is the use of coal and coal energy,” he said.

Verdict: True

The U.S. reduced carbon emissions by over 40 million tonnes last year, more than any other country. On a percentage change basis, however, the U.S. fell outside the top 20 for emissions reductions in 2017.

Fact Check:

Shapiro was speaking at Ohio State University on Nov. 13 when he made the claim.

The oil giant BP tracks the global carbon emissions produced by oil, gas and coal and publishes its findings annually. Its 2018 report shows that U.S. carbon emissions dropped to 5.1 billion tonnes in 2017, a decline of nearly 42 million tonnes over 2016 levels.

Last year marked the ninth time this century that the U.S. had the largest reduction in global carbon emissions, according to BP.

Ukraine had the second-largest reduction in 2017 – 21 million tonnes – followed by Mexico, the U.K. and South Africa, which saw reductions of 15 million, 12 million and 10 million tonnes, respectively.

While the U.S. had the largest reduction in 2017, it fell outside the top 20 when measuring the year over year change on a percentage basis.

Calculated this way, Ukraine had the largest reduction in 2017. Its carbon emissions dropped from 200 million tonnes in 2016 to 179 million in 2017, a 10.4 percent decrease. Columbia (7.4 percent), Croatia (6.7 percent), Denmark (6.6 percent) and Turkmenistan (5.4 percent) also experienced large declines relative to their size.

Despite these reductions, carbon emissions rose more than 1 percent globally last year. China and India accounted for the largest increases, together emitting an additional 212 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2017.

The U.S. accounted for 15.2 percent of global carbon emissions in 2017, behind only China, which accounted for 27.6 percent of global emissions.

The switch from coal to natural gas, a cleaner form of energy, has been a major factor in declining U.S. carbon emissions in recent years. The Energy Information Administration estimates that from 2005 to 2017, a greater reliance on natural gas for electricity generation reduced carbon emissions by 2.4 billion tonnes. Non-carbon forms of energy like wind and solar also reduced carbon emissions by 1.5 billion tonnes over the same period.

The International Energy Agency believes that reduced electricity demand and higher renewable-based electricity generation were the biggest drivers behind lower U.S. carbon emissions in 2017.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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