Branden Camp / AP
The Trump government is celebrating a decline in its greenhouse gas emissions last year, while the president himself continues to question the scientific understanding of climate change.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the production of heat storage gases in the US was 2.7 percent less than last year. Despite the improvement, independent analysts say that the country will lag far behind the pollution controls needed to stop global warming.
"The trends that drive the emission cuts we saw in 2017 were baked in several years," said Kate Larsen, who oversees greenhouse gas emissions for the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm. "We can not rely on these trends to last forever."
Much of the decline came from power plants in 2017 – traditionally one of the main causes of carbon pollution. Emissions from the power sector declined by 4.5 percent as utilities switched to cheap natural gas and increasingly competitive renewable energy sources. The share of coal in electricity production fell to just 30 percent.
"These achievements are largely due to technological breakthroughs in the private sector, not the heavy hand of the government," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist and, like President Trump, a skeptic when it comes to climate issues.
In an interview with 60 minutes that aired this week, Trump denied the overwhelming scientific consensus that man-made carbon pollution is responsible for global warming.
"You would have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda," said the president.
Trump has a priority to push back Obama's climate policy, including measures to reduce pollution from power plants and automobile tailpipes.
Despite the turnaround of the federal government, the electricity sector has continued to show progress in reducing emissions. The abundance of cheap natural gas and falling prices for renewable energy have favored the switch to dirty coal-fired power plants. Some states have also called on utility companies to increase their dependence on more environmentally friendly energy sources.
In the transport sector, the trends are less positive as electricity has become eclipsed as the leading producer of greenhouse gases.
"People are driving more and because of low fuel prices in recent years, consumers are choosing larger, heavier vehicles," Larsen said. The Trump administration has also slowed the Obama era's efforts to increase fuel efficiency, although states like California have threatened to impose their own standards.
Larsen says greenhouse gas emissions in the US in 2025 will be about 15 percent below their 2005 levels, much less than the 26-28 percent reduction promised in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Trump announced its intention to withdraw from this agreement last year
If cheap natural gas continues to gain market share, greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector could decline Rise again in 2025. At this point, the gas may not displace the carbon-intensive coal, but the carbon-free nuclear power.
is a risk to take into account these market trends, "Larsen said." If these trends go in a direction that makes no sense, no one will blame them. "
In an interview with the Associated Press this week Trump argued that the government's efforts to stem carbon pollution could bring the US to its knees an economic disadvantage
"What I do not want to do is sacrifice the economic well-being of our land for something that no one really knows," said Trump and repeated his false claim that there is a broad debate on climate research. "I have a natural instinct for science," he said.