Greenhouse Gases Carbon Dioxide

Greenhouse Gases, Carbon Dioxide CO2, by Country

Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are one of the main sources responsible for climate change. Other greenhouse gases include methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

While it is difficult to quantify all greenhouse gas emissions, data on carbon dioxide emissions provide a quick way to understand the severity of their impact.

Evolution of CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases, in the last 120 years

The most recent data from Global Carbon Project  and in the analysis Our World in Data allow us to show the top 5 countries with the highest carbon dioxide emissions in 2020, and the evolution over the last 120 years.

Graph 1 CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases, by country 1900 -2020, top 5; Source Our World Data, CC 4.0
Graph 1 CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases, by country 1900 -2020, top 5; Source: Our World Data, CC 4.0

How to assess carbon emissions

Should emissions be evaluated by the total value of emissions from each country or analyzed by the emissions emitted per capita?

Some experts argue that the total value of emissions will be the most correct way to identify who contributes most to the worsening of climatic conditions.

Countries like China have some of the highest emissions in the world, given their enormous size and population.

With globalization, China that now produces the goods that are used by people all over the world must have its emissions evaluated differently.

For example, the difference between carbon dioxide used in production and consumption in the US is much smaller than in China.

Thus, much of the CO2 emissions in the US come from people while in China they come from the manufacture of products that go to the rest of the world.

Therefore, other experts think that the amount of emissions produced per person is the appropriate indicator.

In this way, countries with smaller populations can be compared with those with larger populations.

Per capita emissions are higher in oil producing countries and some island nations, reflecting the huge energy costs the oil business has on the global environment – ​​even before these fossil fuels are burned.

carbon dioxide emissions per capita

Map 2 CO2 emissions per capita 2020; Source Our World Data, Creative Commons 4.0
Map 2 – CO2 emissions per capita 2020; Source: Our World Data, Creative Commons 4.0

The above map gives an idea of ​​world CO2 emissions, per capita, in 2020.

The 15 countries with the highest annual CO2 emissions per capita are highlighted below:

Table 3 - Annual CO2 Emission per capita; Source: Our World Data, Creative Commons 4.0
RankCountryAnnual CO2 Emission (per capita)
1Qatar37.0193
2New Caledonia30.4482
3Mongolia26.9780
4Trinidad and Tobago25.3731
5Brunei23.2203
6Kuwait20.8251
7Bahrain20.5456
8Curacao20.3234
9Saudi Arabia17.9672
10Kazakhstan15.5158
11Australia15.3684
12United Arab Emirates15.1933
13Sint Maarten (Dutch part)14.5390
14United States14.2379
15Canada14.1969

There are several data sources that aim to quantify carbon emissions.

O International Energy Agency Index only includes emissions from the combustion of petroleum products, while the Global Carbon Project also includes cement production, one of the biggest emitters of CO2.

Total CO2 emissions by country

The following map gives an overview of CO2 emissions in the world in 2020:

Map 4 Annual CO2 Emissions by Country 2020; Source Our World Data, Creative Commons 4.0
Map 4 – Annual CO2 Emissions by Country 2020; Source: Our World Data, Creative Commons 4.0

The 15 countries with the highest CO2 emissions are the following:

Table 5 Top 2 Annual CO15 Emissions; Source: Our World Data, Creative Commons 4.0
RankCountryAnnual CO2 Emissions
1China10,667,887,453
2United States4,712,770,573
3India2,441,792,313
4Russia1,577,136,041
5Japan1,030,775,384
6Iran745,035,109
7Germany644,310,352
8Saudi Arabia625,507,882
9South Korea597,605,055
10Indonesia589,500,368
11Canada535,822,990
12Brazil467,383,500
13South Africa451,957,087
14oceania444,571,198
15Turkey392,794,051

And with the following evolution from 2000 to 2020:

Graph 6 Annual CO2 Emissions by Country Source Our World Data, CC 4.0
Chart 6 Annual CO2 Emissions by Country Source: Our World Data, CC 4.0

Top 10 countries with the biggest polluters

Let's look at some characteristics of the top ten countries in the top of the biggest polluters, according to the report of the Global Carbon Project.

China – 10.67 Billion Tons

Per capita: 7.41 tons per capita

China is the biggest contributor of carbon emissions in the world.

However, because it also has a large population, its per capita emissions are substantially lower.

China still uses coal as the main energy source for its industry and for families.

China aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

United States (USA) – 4.71 Billion Tons

Per capita: 14.24 tons per capita

The US is the 14th country in the per capita emission of CO2, but as it has a much larger population than other countries, it is the main emitter.

This combination of a large population and high per capita emissions translates into a disproportionate impact on climate change compared to many other countries.

Emissions come from coal, oil and gas used to generate electricity for homes, industries and transport.

Since approximately 2000, US CO2 emissions have been on a downward trend, driven by a significant reduction in coal use.

India – 2.44 Billion Tons

Per capita1.77 tons per capita

India tops this list of greenhouse gas emitters, due to a large population, although per capita emissions are lower than in many other countries.

Compared to the United States, India's contribution to CO2 has only increased in the last 30 years, while the United States' contribution has started to increase about 120 years ago.

Still, India's contribution to the world's CO2 pollution has been increasing year after year, and faster than average.

India's emissions result from a combination of both generating electricity for its growing population and supplying the country's industry.

Russia – 1.58 Billion Tons

Per capita: 10.81 tons per capita

Russia uses a mixture of coal, oil and natural gas to generate electricity, mainly to heat the homes of families and their industry.

Since the 1990s, the country has reduced its dependence on coal and oil and increased its use of natural gas.

Russia also has plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030, which it aims to achieve through a combination of new hydrogen-powered passenger railways, reducing dependence on coal and increasing use of natural gas.

Japan – 1.03 Billion Tons

Capital: 8.15 tons per capita

Since 2013 Japan's carbon emissions have been on a significant downward trend.

Emissions mainly come from the country's direct consumption of fossil fuels for its population densely concentrated in cities and some industries, although Japan, as an island country, also imports from other countries.

Japan has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Iran – 745 Million Tons

Per capita: 8.87 tons per capita

It is perhaps not surprising for an oil-rich nation that the vast majority of Iran's carbon emissions come from oil and gas, with almost no coal. Most of its net emissions come from the same areas as most countries: electricity and heat generation, buildings and transport. Where Iran differs from many others on this list is in the category of fugitive emissions, i.e. leaks from storage tanks and pipelines.

Iran has not ratified the Paris Agreement. However, there are ways for the country to significantly reduce emissions, improving the efficiency of industries.

Germany – 644 Million Tons

Capital: 7.69 tons per capita

Germany's CO2 emissions have been on a downward trend since around 1980, in particular, with the reduction in coal consumption as well as reductions in oil, while natural gas has remained largely the same. Most fossil fuels burned are for heating and electricity, followed by transportation and buildings.

The country's 2050 Climate Action Plan includes targets for reducing greenhouse gases by 55% of 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% to 95% by 2050, to get as close to carbon neutrality as possible.

Saudi Arabia – 626 Million Tons

Per capita: 17.9 tons per capita

Greenhouse gas emissions come mainly from oil and some from natural gas. These fuels are used to generate electricity, transport, industry and construction, as well as to fuel the oil industry.

Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 and, although the reduction of carbon emissions has been slow, there is a commitment to reduce these emissions by 2030.

South Korea – 598 Million Tons

Per capita: 11.7 tons per capita

South Korea produces most of its carbon emissions by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and heat. This is followed by transportation, fabrication and construction.

South Korea also plans to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Indonesia – 589 Million Tons

Capital: 2.16 tons per capita

Use and emissions of coal and oil are on the rise in Indonesia, a country with more than 17.000 islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Indonesia faces the great challenge of economic growth and the reduction of CO2 emissions. At the same time, these islands are exceptionally affected by sea level rise due to climate change.

While Indonesia's contribution to the increase in greenhouse gases is significant and growing, most of it comes from a different source.

The big difference in relation to the other countries comes from the change in land use and deforestation.

That is why the most significant part of the Indonesian Government's commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the ban on further deforestation for palm plantations or logging.

A forest area the size of Japan has already been lost from Indonesia.

What is the evolution of Portugal

We now analyze the comparative evolution of Portugal with the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries the CPLP, as well as the average evolution of the European Union (EU) and some of the countries that integrate it.

Comparison with the CPLP

The country with the largest dimension is Brazil and, as would be expected, it has a greater contribution in CO2 emissions in relation to the other CPLP countries.

Graph 7 Annual emissions of CO2, greenhouse gases, 2000-2020 CPLP Source Our World Data, CC 4.0
Graph 7 Annual emissions of CO2, greenhouse gases, 2000-2020 CPLP Source: Our World Data, CC 4.0

Portugal is, within this community, the country with the highest human development indicators and shows a higher value per capita in the emission of greenhouse gases, CO2.

However, it clearly shows that it is on a downward trend.

Graph 8 Annual emissions per capita CPLP 2000-2020; Source Our World Data, CC 4.0
Graph 8 Annual emissions per capita CPLP 2000-2020; Source: Our World Data, CC 4.0

Between 2000 and 2020 Portugal decreased (6.3802/3.9609) 62% and Brazil increased (2.1988/1.9462) 13%.

Equatorial Guinea, which joined the CPLP in 2014, has values ​​far above the rest.

Comparison with the European Community

In the European community the biggest polluters with greenhouse gases are Germany and France. The UK, although outside the EU, ranks second:

Graph 9 Annual emissions of CO2, greenhouse gases, Portugal EU; Source Our World Data, CC 4.0
Graph 9 Annual emissions of CO2, greenhouse gases, Portugal EU; Source: Our World Data, CC 4.0

In terms of per capita emissions, Portugal is clearly below the EU average:

Chart 10 Annual CO2 emissions per capita EU 2000-2020; Source Our World Data, CC 4.0
Chart 10 Annual CO2 emissions per capita EU 2000-2020; Source: Our World Data, CC 4.0

The evolution of Portugal since 1900

The evolution of total greenhouse gas emission values ​​since 1900 is shown:

Chart 11 Annual CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases, Portugal 1900 - 2020 Source Our World Data, CC 4.0
Graph 11 Annual CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases, Portugal 1900 – 2020 Source: Our World Data, CC 4.0

There is practically continuous growth until 2005, starting a period of decrease from 2005, with some variation between the years 2014 and 2017.

See also other features

From 1 to 5 stars, how do you rate this article?

5 stars for the highest score!

How you found this article interesting ...

Share it on your favorite social network!

We wish that the article had been to your satisfaction.

Help us improve!

We will be very grateful if you give us your contribution to make it better.

Leave a Comment

Your email address Will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment is processed.

Privacy Policy          Terms and Conditions

Join us!

Register and don't miss the news!

Receive the weekly newsletter in your email

Thanks for the visit!

Surprise yourself with our Facebook page.

Check back often

Logo PO 100 x 100 png Pop Ups
Scroll to Top