Per Capita Carbon Emissions by Country

In recent years there has been a lot of discussion around climate change and the effects it has had on the planet. In particular, scientists and researchers have began to look at the role humans have played in climate change. Measuring carbon emissions is one way to determine the impact human activity has on the climate. This chart shows the per capita carbon emissions by country over the last few decades.

There is a certain level of carbon in the atmosphere that is needed to sustain life on earth. Carbon (and other molecules) act as a layer to absorb and reflect thermal radiation, which keeps the earth at a temperature sustainable to life.

Increased carbon emissions can disrupt the earth’s temperature leading a variety of other issues. These include extreme weather events, rising sea levels, crop growth and human health among other issues. Many blame higher global temperatures for the increase in named storms in the Atlantic basin in recent years

Since the Industrial Revolution, the rise in usage of fossil fuels has been shown to significantly increase the carbon emitted into the atmosphere. It has also been strongly correlated with an increase in the average global temperatures.

Per Capita Carbon Emissions by Country

Per Capita Carbon Emissions by Country chart

When looking at countries that are the main contributors to carbon emissions it’s easy to single out the large countries. China and India, for instance, have two of the highest total carbon emissions every year. Given their massive populations this is to be expected though.

A better way to gauge the relative impact by country would be to look at the data on a per capita (per person) basis. This shows the total carbon output by each person living in the country.

Shown this way, the United States and Canada are two of the top carbon emitting countries in the world by person. There are smaller countries that are higher (Saudi Arabia and Qatar among others) but this just singles out a few.

China and India are much lower on a per capita basis. Their emission levels are actually growing as the countries become more developed, instead of decreasing like other more developed countries.

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Source: Our World in Data

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