Who has contributed most to global CO2 emissions? October 01, by Hannah Ritchie Our World in Data presents the empirical evidence on global development in entries dedicated to specific topics.
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This blog post draws on data and research discussed in our entry on CO2 and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Since the world has emitted over 1.
One common argument is that those countries which have added most to the CO2 in our atmosphere — contributing most to the problem today — should take on the greatest responsibility in tackling it. We did this calculation for each country and region over the period from through to Treemaps are used to compare entities such as countries or regions in relation to others, and relative to the total.
Here countries are presented as rectangles and colored by region. The size of each rectangle corresponds to the sum of CO2 emissions from a country between and Combined, all rectangles represent the global total. This is the result of very low per capita emissions — both historically and currently.
All of this data is also explorable by country and over time in the interactive map below.
Easy way: Countries of Asia
In the chart below we see the change in the share of global cumulative emissions by region over time — from through to Up untilmore than half of historical CO2 emissions were emitted by Europe. Over the century which followed, industrialization in the USA rapidly increased its contribution. In the final visualization you can explore the same cumulative CO2 emissions as you have seen above but now visualizes by country.
Using the timeline at the bottom of the chart you can see how contribution across the world has evolved since The map for shows the large inequalities of contribution across the world that the first treemap visualization has shown. The USA has emitted most to date: more than a quarter of all historical CO2: twice that of China which is the second largest contributor.
In contrast, most countries across Africa have been responsible for less than 0.
Asia Maps: Digital Collections, Center for the Study of Asia
What becomes clear when we look at emissions across the world today is that the countries with the highest emissions over history are not always the biggest emitters today. Reductions here will have a relatively small impact on emissions at the global level — or at least fall far short of the scale of change we need.
This creates tension with the argument that the largest contributors in the past should be those doing most to reduce emissions today. This is because a large fraction of CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years once emitted.
Click to open interactive version Footnotes Carbon dioxide CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion were almost zero prior to In its and global emissions were less than 10 million tonnes — times less than global emissions today.
We can conclude that emissions prior to were very low and inconsequential to the numbers we compare today.
You can find further information on how long historical emissions dating back to are estimated here. The cumulative figures were calculated by Our World in Data based on these annual estimate sources.