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Concerned About Greenhouse Gas Emissions? We’ve Got Good News For You.

I was talking to a friend in another state who lives about 50 miles from a nuclear plant. She told me about some of her co-workers who proudly wear the badge of ‘environmentalist,’ but are staunchly anti-nuclear power. That made both of us laugh, as it should anyone who cares about greenhouse gas emissions. The fact is nuclear power emits zero greenhouse gases. It’s as clean as can be. Still, my friend is having no luck in getting her co-workers to stop denying the science of nuclear, or the fact that emissions are down.

That’s why I referred her to the writing and analysis by my Locke colleague Jon Sanders. Thanks to Jon, we know the true state of clean air in this country.

The United States, meanwhile, continues to lead the world in cutting CO2. In 2020, our total CO2 emissions were at their lowest level since 1984, according to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. More impressively, our per-capita CO2 emissions were markedly lower than they were even as far back as 1950, which is the earliest year for which data were provided.

How about the quality of North Carolina’s air? It’s better, not worse.

North Carolina’s GHG emissions have been falling all century — dramatically. Carbon dioxide (CO2), which is also a natural byproduct of animals exhaling, tends to be the focal point of people’s concerns over emissions. The nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), however, are dangerous pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act.

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): Down 40.4% — 54.1% per capita

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx): Down 74.2% — 80.1% per capita

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2): Down 92.9% — 94.6% per capita

We’re doing quite well. And we’re accomplishing this improvement with a fascinating and changing mix of energy, a mix that now has nuclear and natural gas at the top of the list. Look:

It’s all good news. So when will the environmental Left accept the science on nuclear and the data on falling emissions? Don’t hold your breath waiting. It’s a potent political issue with a narrative that relies on emotion rather than science. Those of us who respect science and data reserve the right to engage in our own emotional reaction to the subject. We’re quite happy.

Donna Martinez / Senior Writer and Editor

Donna came to the John Locke Foundation in January 2003 after freelance writing for Carolina Journal and contributing to projects for the North Carolina Education Alliance. He...