Fact Check: Trump Says China ‘Sends Real Dirt Up into the Air’

CLAIM: During Tuesday night’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump challenged former Vice President Joe Biden’s argument for returning to the Paris climate agreement by arguing that China “sends real dirt up into the air,” alongside Russia and India, but only “we’re supposed to be good.”

VERDICT: China is responsible for nearly twice the carbon emissions as the United States, making this claim true.

Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement in 2017, with a plan to “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.” At the time, Trump claimed that staying in the deal could have cost as many as 2.5 million jobs by 2025. The Paris climate agreement imposed specific restrictions on economic activity on each individual participating nation, based on their level of development, to allegedly help reduce environmental costs of industrialization. This means that the restrictions on the United States were significantly more severe than those on other signatories.

During the debate, Biden called on the United States to return to the Paris accords, signed in 2015 while Biden was vice president.

“We make up 15 percent of the world’s problem, but the rest of the world we have to get them to come along,” Biden said.

“China sends up real dirt into the air, Russia does, India does, they all do – we’re supposed to be good,” Trump responded.

Biden’s “15 percent” remark appears to be a reference to the nation’s carbon emissions, which make up 15 percent of the world’s global total. What Biden failed to note is that China is responsible for nearly double that number. At 28 percent, China is the world’s worst polluter. Russia is responsible for five percent of the nation’s carbon emissions and India for seven percent.

While India’s carbon emissions pale in comparison to China’s, a study by the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP) published last year found that more people die of pollution-related conditions in India than anywhere else. China accounts for the second-largest number of pollution-related deaths.

A 2019 study from the 2019 World Air Quality Report found that 90 percent of the world’s most polluted cities are in India and China.

As part of China’s participation in the Paris agreement, its Foreign Ministry openly boasted this week that it would be increasing, not decreasing, carbon emissions in the next decade. The agreement would not require China to decrease emissions before 2030.

In contrast to the growing percentage of dangerous air pollution that China is responsible for around the world, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), a U.N. agency that President Trump has criticized for being too sympathetic to China, has recognized America as one of the world’s least polluted nations.


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