Nature and Biodiversity

One chart that shows just how skewed global emissions are

A chimney in an industrial area of Sydney emits vapour June 22, 2009. Australia's government, facing Senate defeat of key emission trading laws, vowed on Friday to bring its climate-fighting regime to the upper house a second time, opening the door for a possible snap election.        REUTERS/Tim Wimborne    (AUSTRALIA ENERGY POLITICS ENVIRONMENT IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR24WOS

China, the US and the EU produce 14 times more than the bottom 100 countries. Image: REUTERS/Tim Wimborn

Keith Breene
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of the Environment

Global warming is the ultimate international problem. It doesn’t matter where you live, climate change is the most serious threat the planet faces today.

When it comes to the sources of the greenhouse gases being emitted, though, the differences between countries are stark.

Image: World Resources Institute

A new chart from the World Resources Institute shows that nearly three quarters of all emissions comes from just 10 places.

Top heavy

Admittedly, the top ten does treat the EU as a single entity, but even if you discount all 28 member states, the other top nine emitting countries produce well over half the world’s greenhouse gases on their own.

Image: World Resources Institute

In another striking reminder of how skewed emissions are, we can see from the charts that the world’s top three emitters - China, the US and the EU - produce 14 times more than the bottom 100 countries.

Every sector counts

Energy is by far the largest generator of greenhouse gases at 72% of emissions in 2013, the latest figures available.

Image: World Resources Institute

China saw the largest increase in energy emissions of 4%.

The majority of these emissions came from an increase in electricity production, heating and transportation.

Although emissions rose, the rate of growth has slowed. China’s average annual growth rate for coal consumption from 2000 to 2013 was 8.8%.

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The bigger picture

From 2012 to 2013, the top two global emitters, China and the United States, saw the largest single year percentage increase in greenhouse gas emissions, with a rise of 4.3% and 1.4% respectively.

Even with that growth of emissions from 2012-2013 by top emitters, their combined emissions have remained the same for the past decade. In that time, US emissions peaked in 2007 and the EU has also seen steady reductions.

Others have stabilized their emissions over the last 10 years, including Russia and Canada - a sign that some positive progress is being made.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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