Carbon emissions per person, by country etc – here's the latest data (and it doesn't look good)

June 29, 2012 3 By admin

The Guardian has an excellent interactive table summarizing the latest data on carbon emissions (for 2010). There’s also a nice interactive map where you can click and get the trajectory for any given country (see below). The data are published by the US Energy Information Administration, and our climate wonks tell me they are solid.

The numbers are for energy emissions only, and so don’t include emissions from land use change / deforestation (much more difficult to measure) but are a decent proxy for overall emissions profiles, although land use will have a big impact on some countries and yes, overall emissions will indeed be even higher when land use is included. So here’s the headline numbers:

China carbon emissions Guardian

The world emitted 31.8bn tonnes of carbon from the consumption of energy in 2010 – up 6.7% on the year before. The figure is up by 48% on 1992, when the first Rio summit took place.

China – which only went into first place in 2006 – is racing ahead of the US. It emitted 8.3bn tonnes of CO2 in 2010 – up 240% on 1992, 15.5% on the previous year.  China now emits 48% more CO2 than the USA – and is responsible for a quarter of the world’s emissions. It now emits more per capita than France.

Gibraltar has the highest per capita emissions in the world – 135.3 tonnes per person per year, compared to 8.5 tonnes in the UK and 6.3 tonnes in China. I presume that’s kind of weird data glitch born of low population, shipping or something. If not, someone really should start a campaign – Spain maybe?

The global average is now up to 4.6 tonnes per person, well over double the level necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. India (1.4 tonnes) and Africa (1.1 tonnes) are below the sustainability threshold, but virtually everyone else is above it. Interestingly, Brazil comes in pretty close at just 2.3 tonnes.

Of the major, non oil economies, Singapore takes the biscuit for Mr Global Dirty, with 36.6 tonnes per person, followed by Luxembourg climatechange_cartoon(21.7t), Australia (18.8t) and US (16.1t).

Which I fear all goes to show that, as well as doing our utmost to turn the emissions supertanker around, we have to start thinking through the likely political and developmental implications of a +4 or +6 degree world. End of the species may be one answer, but that actually encourages people to stop thinking about it. More certain are nasty distributive conflicts over access to resources combined with climate upheaval, which are going to put huge pressures on haves v have nots (e.g. excluding poor people still further from access to fossil fuels, water or fertile land) – that’s the scenario we are seeing already in some land grabs related to biofuels or carbon markets, and it will only get more frequent. A bum note for the weekend, sorry.