Some media reporting on US emissions reductions leave the false impression that the United States is performing well in meeting its responsibilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it is possible for the US to come close to meeting a US commitment made in Copenhagen in 2009 to reduce its emissions by 17% below 2005 emissions. Missing from such reports is an analysis of projected US emissions reductions compared to the magnitude of global greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to prevent catastrophic warming and the limited amount of time that the international community has to put global emissions on a reduction pathway that has some hope of avoiding rapid non-linear climate change. That is, to evaluate the US performance in reducing its greenhouse emissions one must compare US emissions both at existing and future commitment levels with what is needed globally to avoid harsh impacts.
The following chart shows the emissions reduction commitments individual nations have made thus far including the United States and what emissions are projected if the United States meets its projected target (there are two numbers shown on this chart for each commitment to take into consideration certain contingencies).
This chart shows that the US commitment is among the lowest emissions reductions from 1990 levels compared to other developed nations.
The following chart compares total emissions from major national emitters in regard to 1990, 2005, 2010, business as usual, and projected emissions in 2020 and projected based upon emissions reduction commitments.