Still in the spirit of international competition (What can I say? I have Olympics fever!), I was curious how global emissions are distributed among the world’s countries. Who emits the most carbon dioxide each year? Who emits the most carbon dioxide per capita? And, whose emissions are on the rise? Lucky for me, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency recently came out with a report revealing CO2 emissions data for 2011. Here are the highlights:
- Global CO2 emissions rose 3% in 2011, which is not good if we are trying to limit emissions between 2000 and 2050 to 1.5 trillion tonnes (1 metric tonne is slightly greater than 1 English ton, but they are considered to be roughly equivalent). The JRC stated that at our current rate of emissions, the world would surpass this limit within 20 years.
- China’s emissions rose by 9% last year to a whopping 9.7 billion tonnes. This figure represents 29% of total global emissions! Keep in mind that China is home to over 19% of the world population (1,344,130,000 out of a total 6,973,738,433 people), but 29% is certainly greater than their “fair share.”
- U.S. emissions fell last year by 2% – hooray! We now clock in at 5.42 billion tonnes of annual CO2 emissions, or 16% of global emissions.
- The entire European Union accounts for 11% of global CO2 emissions (whose population is estimated at over 500 million). India accounts for 6% of global carbon dioxide emissions, Russia for 5%, and Japan for 4%. If you add it up, China emits more carbon dioxide than the EU, India, Russia, and Japan combined.
- Australia has the highest CO2 emissions per capita – 19 tonnes per person per year! The United States ranks second at 17.3 tonnes per capita, and Saudi Arabia ranks third at 16.5 tonnes per capita. Per capita, China’s emissions only amount to 7.2 tonnes each year, although that figure is higher than the ones for France, Spain, and Italy.
If you’d like to read the full report, you can find it here.
Ok, statistics are great, but what can we take away from all those numbers?
- Bottom line: global emissions are still increasing.
- BUT, it appears that China accounted for most of that increase. Developing nations are bringing about that development with increased CO2 emissions, while industrialized nations are working to decrease their emissions, as is evidenced by the lower figures of the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.
- CO2 emissions per capita are widely varied around the world and are a good indicator of which societies are the most energy intensive. Nations with higher CO2 per capita figures should focus on energy efficiency initiatives, as should those countries with rapidly rising CO2 per capita figures (e.g. Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and China).
There is still work to be done when it comes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, but it is reassuring to see developed nations taking the lead and making significant strides. If only there were a CO2 Olympics to see who could achieve the lowest total CO2 emissions and the lowest emissions per capita. Maybe that would inspire more countries to take action – we all know China loves gold medals!