The impact of climate change is becoming increasingly obvious, and one of the most effective ways of addressing it is cutting down on carbon emissions. Some countries will have to take the lead in helping to solve problems that cause suffering for other nations.
It’s not a bad idea to know which nations are responsible for the most pollution, as well as which activities and human needs are causing emissions. Where not otherwise noted, these statistics come from a 2018 report from the International Energy Association (IEA), which lists the most recent data from 2016.
Nations with the Most Co2 Emissions
Total Emissions: Mt (million metric tons) 9,057
Change from 2015: Down Mt 68.2
Coal Production: 3,506,521 kt (kilotons)*
*Please note that the coal production figure for each country cited from IEA is an aggregate of the various coal types shown in the pertinent graph.
Almost everything has been increasing in China––total population, energy imports, and consumption of many types of energy. Yet emissions are down just a bit. Still, while China invests heavily in renewable energy, its energy needs are so high that it continues to lead the planet in CO2 pollution.
Total Emissions: Mt 4,833
Change from 2015: down Mt 86.5
Coal Production: 609,582 Kt
As is the case with China, the U.S. is achieving minuscule decreases in overall carbon emissions, coupled with a decrease in coal production. Reductions of 1% a year won’t go a long way in addressing climate change.
Total Emissions: Mt 2,076
Change from 2015: Down Mt 50
Coal Production: 737,480 Kt
India is similar to China in the sense that its increasing energy consumption and its large emissions are tied to its vast population. The subcontinent's overall footprint is enormous, yet on a per capita basis, its CO2 generation is low.
Total Emissions: Mt 1,438
Change from 2015: Down Mt 27.73
Coal Production: 407,044 Kt
The vast majority of Russia’s 2017 emissions come from stationary sources, meaning sources not including cars. The nation is, from the most recent data, responsible for 4% of the world’s CO2 emissions. This puts it in this group of 5 nations that collectively are responsible for more than 55% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
Total Emissions: Mt 1,147
Change from 2015: Down Mt 5.43
Coal Production: 34,834 kt
Japan is still backpedaling from the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown of 2011, which led to a ban on nuclear energy, in turn leading to a rise in the use of fossil fuels. As is the case with China, Japan invests heavily in energy technology. However, consumption and production remain high.
What Produces Emissions?
When people think of Co2 emissions, they may envision smokestacks and big traffic jams, however some of the emission sources may be less obvious, such as the generation of electricity. Looking at emissions from fuel combustion, here are the top U.S. sources in 2017, according to the latest data available from EPA.
Commercial & Residential- 11%
As for the material that is being burned, the IEA report CO2 Emissions From Fuel Combustion 2018 (Highlights) gives the data we need.
Coal’s percentage dropped by 7% in the Americas, 1.5% in the China region, and 6.6% in Europe. Yet, largely because of the large percentage it makes up in Asia, coal remains the world’s largest source of energy. We have a contradiction to deal with when we read all the news of developments in renewable energy, many of them in China, while still seeing the numbers showing the incredible dominance of coal and heavy usage of oil.
The Bottom Line
Dangers to small island nations, lack of access to water, climate-change-related natural disasters, and unlivable temperatures are problems to be suffered by various parts of the world while created largely by a select few nations.
Efforts to develop alternative energy strategies are not keeping pace with increased demand for energy. The development of renewable energy seems to be the most viable option, yet our hunger for energy outstrips our capacity to deliver it from sustainable sources.