I was chatting with my husband the other day, and it came to light he was under the impression the US was the #1 carbon emitter in the world. This, of course, is not true. In terms of absolute emissions, the US is #2 behind China, by more than a factor of two. That’s right. China emits more than twice as much as the US.
Another statistic is the US emits a little over 10% of the world’s emissions. Even the EU and the US combined only emit about 20% of the total emissions. In other words, the US and Europe could emit nothing, and I’m not sure it would really help all that much.
In terms of per capita emissions, you may be under the impression that the US is the #1 emitter. Again, you’d be wrong. The US is #16 on this list, though some of the countries ahead of it are tiny and should probably not be counted. Nevertheless, major countries like Canada and Australia.
Does anyone remember when the whole world ganged up on Bush because he didn’t sign the Kyoto agreement, which basically called for the US to reduce emissions and nobody else to do anything? Well since 1990, the US has only increased emissions by 0.4%, despite the population increasing increasing 30%. Though I don’t think anyone should get a pass for increasing population. With that said, our per capita emissions have decreased by about 30%, and a lot of our population gain is due to immigration, not births.
By contrast, Canada increased emissions by 35% despite signing Kyoto. Their population increased 40%, so even per capita they decreased emissions minimally.
Similarly, I remember my Irish boyfriend giving me no end of crap about the US not signing Kyoto. And yet Ireland increased emissions nearly 18% (compared to 0.5% by the US).
China increased their population by 23% and their emissions by 30%.
Anyway, the latest kerfluffle is the climate gathering in Glasgow. I surprised to hear that China does not plan to attend. China emits significantly more than the US and Europe combined. I can’t help but think climate talks without China’s participation aren’t particularly useful. With that said, I did think this was an interesting piece on Xi Jinping the environmentalist. (Disable Java to read.)
The real question for me is whether carbon emissions are the most pressing environmental problem right now. I think they are not. They are really a proxy for population, and we are playing whack-a-mole and another population-induced crisis will pop up soon if we manage to contain this one. And yes, with three kids, I realize I am not helping the problem.