A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

U.S. Not Ranked the ‘Cleanest’ Country


President Donald Trump recently said “we’ve got the cleanest country in the planet right now” when it comes to “clean air” and “clean water.” Rankings compiled by researchers at Yale and Columbia universities say otherwise.

Out of 180 countries studied, the U.S. comes in at No. 27 on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index, which scores countries based on their performances in a number of categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality.

On air quality, the U.S. ranked 10th, and on water and sanitation, it placed 29th.

The topic of clean air and water came up in remarks Trump made this week during a campaign-style rally in Charleston, West Virginia.

“There’s nobody cleaner than us,” the president bragged.

Trump, Aug. 21: We want a strong, beautiful, clean environment. I want clean air. I want crystal clean water. And we’ve got it. We’ve got the cleanest country in the planet right now. There’s nobody cleaner than us, and it’s getting better and better, but I’m getting rid of some these ridiculous rules and regulations, which are killing our companies, our states and our jobs.

Trump provided no evidence, and the White House didn’t provide us with any when we asked.

But there are several countries that are “cleaner” than the U.S., overall and in specific categories, according to the most recent EPI.

The report — which is released biennially in even-numbered years — was produced jointly by Yale and Columbia in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

This year, the U.S. ranked 10th in air quality, though it was tied with 11 other countries for 1st in household air pollution. And it ranked 29th overall in water and sanitation, though it was tops in drinking water along with nine other nations.

The U.S. rankings in those categories suffered due to lower scores in exposure to particulate matter (where it was 88th) and sanitation (where it was 31st).

Factoring in all 24 performance indicators across the 10 environmental health and ecosystem vitality categories, the U.S. ranked 27th on the index.

“This ranking,” a press release said, “puts the United States near the back of the industrialized nations, behind France (2nd), the United Kingdom (6th), Germany (13th), Italy (16th), Japan (20th) and Canada (25th).”

So there are indeed countries that are cleaner than the U.S.

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"We’ve got the cleanest country in the planet right now. There’s nobody cleaner than us."
Rally in West Virginia
Tuesday, August 21, 2018