Per capita CO2 emissions

Posted by Joshua Newton On July 22, 2010 0 comments

Discussions about mitigating the effects of climate change invariably lead to national comparisons of greenhouse gas emissions, and such comparisons reveal that China is the world’s largest emitter of CO2, followed closely by the USA. One of the problems associated with such comparisons, however, is that they fail to account for national differences in population. A fairer comparison would therefore be to examine per capita CO2 emissions.

The graph below contains the per capita CO2 emissions of various nations in 1990 and 2007. As the graph reveals, many nations throughout this period experienced dramatic growth in per capita CO2 emissions, and this growth was particularly evident in the Asia-Pacific region. It should be noted, however, that much of this growth took place off the back of low per capita CO2 emissions.

Juxtaposed with this growth was the small to moderate declines in per capita CO2 emissions throughout Western Europe and the former Soviet Union. Nevertheless, per capita CO2 emissions in many of these nations still remained high. If we are to take to heart Jefferson’s sentiment that ‘all men are created equal’, then we must move towards a future where everyone has the same right to emit the same (sustainable) amount of CO2.


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