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New Data On Carbon Emissions Per Capita

Simon Donner's picture
University of British Columbia

Simon Donner is a professor in the Geography Department at the University of British Columbia who studies why the climate matters to people and aquatic ecosystems, including rivers and coral reefs.

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  • Nov 9, 2011

To follow up Friday’s post, I put together a chart of per capita emissions, based on the CDIAC’s preliminary 2010 fossil fuel CO2 data and the estimated population. The per capita emissions were calculated using the most up-to-date source of population data I know (Wikipedia!).

The chart includes roughly the top twenty fossil fuel CO2 emitters in the preliminary 2010 data, shown in order from top (China) to bottom. Once again, keep in mind this is preliminary data and does not include other emissions from land use change or emissions of other greenhouse gas emissions.

The chart serves as a reminder that despite large increases in total emissions from fossil fuels over the past several years, countries like India, Indonesia and Brazil still have very low per capita emissions compared to North America. China has become an interesting in between, with per capita emissions still far below that of North America, but rivalling some European countries.

The simple calculation of per capita emissions is potentially misleadings, and raises a number of questions about attribution. If China is manufacturing goods for the North American market, should some of China’s CO2 emissions be attributed to North America? Also, how is energy use and emissions distributed within each country? Is the per capita emissions value skewed by a very unequal distribution of wealth? [I’ll let the Occupy movement tackle that one]

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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Nov 9, 2011

I agree, Ed.

Growing human population with growing activity results in a growing carbon cycle. The false premise of this information is the presumed inability to store and cycle carbon.

Since the first civilizations of Sumeria, Egypt, and the Indus Valley land development through irrigation, plant growth and soil carbonization was a goal. The Great Depression in the US saw vast areas of the west become habitable and productive because of capable leadership.

This crowd is unique in history for their lack of understanding of the most basic biology.

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