5 things the world may not know about America and the environment

Keith Gaby

The world has always had a complicated view of America. They see Disney, Nobel Prize winners and serial killers. They know about Omaha Beach, jazz and Trayvon Martin – along with a thousand other contradictions.

Since the election of Donald Trump, however, our image has tarnished. Only 22 percent of people polled in 37 countries view Trump favorably, compared with 64 percent for President Obama. That, in turn, has dragged down their impression of the United States as a nation: Only 49 percent have a favorable view, down from 64 percent under Obama.

So it’s worth reminding the world that America hasn’t suddenly become a terrible place. Here are five facts backing up that point:

1. We have cleaner air than most countries

Thanks to the Clean Air Act, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s work to enforce this law over the past 45 years, our air is now dramatically cleaner – preventing millions of deaths and health problems.

Our air is not just cleaner than places such as China; America has cleaner, healthier air as far as dangerous particulate matter than Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Japan, Austria and France.

It doesn’t mean everything is fine, of course: A recent report by the American Lung Association showed that 125 million Americans still live with too much air pollution, and proposed cuts to the EPA budget could now reverse the progress we’ve made and add to their numbers.

2. We don’t like Trump’s policies, either

Most Americans didn’t vote for Trump, who has the highest disapproval ratings of any president in history at this point in his term. Through a quirk in our electoral system, he is the duly elected president, but Americans overwhelmingly reject his proposals to cut the EPA and weaken anti-pollution rules.

Indeed, a poll taken around the time of his inauguration even showed that 78 percent of Trump voters also want the same, or stronger, clean air rules.

3. America is still acting on climate change

It’s true that the Trump administration has begun the process of pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, while stocking our government agencies with former corporate lobbyists and appointees who ignore established science. But our states, cities and companies are still taking action.

California just extended its world-leading climate pollution limits, and Illinois has passed strong clean energy legislation.

At least a dozen states and more than 300 cities have pledged to work toward the limits spelled out by the international agreement. More than 1,500 businesses, including 45 of America’s largest companies, are also supporting those goals. All the while, wind and solar industries in the U.S. are booming.

4. Many Republicans want climate action, too

Conservative parties around the world – like the ones that run Britain and Germany – accept the science of climate change and are taking action to reduce pollution. Unfortunately, the leadership of the major conservative party in the U.S. has sought to undermine climate science and block pollution limits.

That doesn’t mean all Republicans agree. Half of Republican voters are “concerned about climate change,” and 75 percent of Trump voters want action to create more clean energy.

Nor is Congress a monolith. Just recently, 46 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against their leadership to keep climate change-related planning going at the Defense Department, for example.

5. Americans want to be part of global community

Trump’s “America First” rhetoric is deeply counterproductive, alienating allies and customers from U.S. products. Every country seeks to protect its interests, but smart leaders know it takes coalitions and cooperation to get things done.

Most Americans understand that.

Earlier this year, polling showed that eight out of 10 Americans want their country to work with “major allies and through international organizations.” Nine out of 10 want us to take an active role at the United Nations.

There’s no denying that President Trump and his allies in Congress are pursuing policies that, rightfully, make the world nervous – or that America’s current image problems are of our own making. Still, Donald Trump isn’t America.

This is why most of his fellow citizens strongly disagree with the way he’s running the government, and why many are doing something about it.

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