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Humanity's Uneven CO₂ Footprint

This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Florian Zandt

North America once again comes out on top in a global ranking, albeit on a negative note: With 20.8 tons of CO₂ emissions per capita in the year 2019, the region comprising the U.S. and Canada is the one whose inhabitants contribute the most to climate change on a personal level by a wide margin. Even with countries like India, China, Japan and Russia being responsible for a high carbon footprint on a state level, some of them don't even crack the top 3 when viewed in a regional context as evidenced by our chart.

According to data by the World Inequality Report 2022 released by the French research laboratory World Inequality Lab, the regions of Central Asia & Russia and Europe come in second and third with 9.9 tons and 9.7 tons, respectively. Europe's ranking can be explained by the dominance of wealthy states like Germany. Central Asia & Russia coming in second despite the total emission figures of China amounting to more than those of the U.S., India, Russia and Japan combined can be explained with the disparity on the wealth and technology levels in the country. So even though the People's Republic has become a hotspot for technology, manufacturing and shipping, its populace outside of centers like Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai contribute less to the country's and by extension the region's carbon footprint. A similar scheme can be seen in the Middle East with its 7.4 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. While countries like Kuwait and Qatar have a higher per capita emission of both North American countries combined according to research by the Global Carbon Project, places like Kuwait, Egypt and Syria hover around 2 tons of CO₂ emissions per capita.

Overall, the World Inequality Report 2022 found that the top 10 percent of carbon emitters were responsible for approximately 50 percent of global emissions in 2019, while the bottom 50 percent only contributed 12 percent of the total emissions. This inequality suggests that current, more generalized climate change policies including carbon taxes require overhauling and that country-specific measures tailored to specific emission goals might prove more fruitful in the long run.

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