Which countries have totaled the most CO2 emissions since 1850?

Which countries have totaled the most CO2 emissions since 1850

When we take the current ranking of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, we find China in first place, far ahead of the United States and India. But warming is not instantaneous: it results from the accumulation of CO2 over time. And seen from this angle, the responsibilities are very different …

The main issuing countries of greenhouse gases are logically the most populated and the most industrialized. China leads the way, with 9.8 billion tonnes of CO2 released in 2019, followed by the United States (4.9 billion), India (2.5 billion) and Russia (1.5 billion). With its power plants at coal and its polluting industries, China is therefore accused of being the first responsible for global warming. But the worrying warming we are experiencing today is not the result of emissions from last year. It is due to theaccumulation of CO emissions2 generated mainly since the beginning of theindustrial era. Since 1850, humanity has released 2.500 billion tons of CO2 in L’atmosphere, which are now contributing to the rise in temperatures.

The specialized site Carbon Brief has thus established a ranking of the countries emitting the most CO2 by taking into account the accumulation of their emissions since 1850. The analysis includes not only emissions due to fossil fuels but also those related to land use change. The animation below shows us the evolution of the ranking over time, guided by the economic development of each country. If China is rising rapidly in the rankings in recent years, the United States remains largely in the lead with 509 billion tonnes of CO2 accumulated since 1850, or 20% of the world total. China comes far behind (11%), followed by Russia (7%), Brazil (5%) and Indonesia (4%), the latter two countries in front of their poor place in the intensive deforestation carried out over the years . The France arrives 12e, with 38.5 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuels, from which 3 billion tonnes must be cut through the growth of forests.

Global warming is not instantaneous and results from the accumulation of CO2 over time. © Carbon Brief

Cumulative CO2 emissions per capita

Still, this classification does not take into account the population, the most populous countries naturally emitting more CO2. Carbon Brief added up the CO emissions2 per inhabitant year by year (from 1850 to 2021) to calculate the weight of cumulative emissions according to the population. Then comes New Zealand, with 5,764 tonnes per capita, followed by Canada (4,772 tonnes), Australia (4,013 tonnes) and the United States (3,820 tonnes). The biggest current emitters like China, India, Brazil or Indonesia are all missing from the top 20.

Imported and exported shows

Another bias in accounting for responsibilities is the notion of “indirect” emissions. Some countries have thus massively rid of their polluting industry, to import goods produced in other countries which, therefore, are singled out. However, the climate negotiations do not take into account these “imported” emissions, focusing on territorial emissions. Establishing a ranking on this criterion is very difficult, because it is necessary to calculate the content of the carbon imported goods and analyze the trade which is only available at world level from 1990. Carbon Brief has nevertheless tried the exercise and publishes a classification of cumulative emissions taking into account exports and imports. The picture is not much different from the first, but we still see that the United States sees its cumulative share increase by 0.3 percentage point, and that China sees its decrease by 1.1 percentage point. .

Lagging climate finance

Developing countries are sure to make these arguments in the negotiations. Request partially taken into account with the 100 billion annual financing promised by the rich countries to the countries of the South from 2020 to help them fight against climate change. However, according to the latest report published by the OECD, the account is not there: climate finance capped at $ 79.6 billion in 2019. ” Climate-related export credits remained low at $ 2.6 billion, accounting for just 3% of total climate finance », Deplores the organization. Everyone has a hard time recognizing their responsibilities.

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