The carbon footprints of nations

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Carbon emissions are one of the main contributors to global climate change.  If we don’t want the world to burn up by the time our grandchildren grow old, we have to get control of them.

This chart compares total carbon emissions by nations in the left chart, and carbon emissions per person in the right chart.  China and the USA, which have the two largest economies and are among the world’s largest nations in population (China No. 1, the USA No. 3, with India No. 2), put more carbon into the atmosphere than any other nations.  Yet if you look at it on a per-person basis, China is hardly noticeable while the United States is not greatly different from other industrial nations.

The biggest emitters on a per-person basis are small island nations such as Gibraltar, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Singapore, which can hardly be found on the left-hand chart, and some of the oil producing nations of the Persian Gulf, such as Qatar.

What happens when China’s and India’s carbon footprints are as high on a per-person basis as Hong Kong’s or Taiwan’s—let alone the USA’s or Europe’s?  How long does it take to burn up the planet?  How long does it take use up the world’s heritage of fossil fuels, even with deep water drilling and mountaintop removal?

And  if that is the case, how can we Americans preach to the people of China and India to restrict themselves when we are unwilling to restrict ourselves?  Barring discovery of some entirely new source of energy, our choices are a voluntary shift to renewable energy and greater energy efficiency, or radical climate change and a crash in our material standard of living.

The world’s future will be determined largely by the big industrial countries – the United States, China, Japan, India and the major European countries – but there is a lot of room for improvement in the small countries as well.

Click on Tracking Climate Change for the original infographic on the Miller-McCune web site.  Hat tip to Column Five Media.

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