“Carbon footprint” refers to the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by an individual or organisation (e.g., building, corporation, country, etc.). It factors in both direct and indirect emissions, the former coming from the burning of fossil fuels in production, heating, and transportation and the latter from the generation of electricity, which is then used in the production of the goods and services that consumers purchase. Beyond carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons are often included in discussions of a “carbon footprint” (CFCs).
Ecological footprints were first proposed in the early 1990s by Canadian ecologist William Rees and Swiss-born regional planner Mathis Wackernagel at the University of British Columbia. It was from the idea of an ecological footprint that the concept of a carbon footprint grew. An ecological footprint is the total area of land needed to sustain a given population or activity. Considerable quantities of both water and land are required for food production. Conversely, a carbon footprint is typically presented as a weight, such as tonnes of CO2 or CO2 equivalents produced annually.
How has the historical pattern of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions changed around the world?
From the middle of the 18th century to the present day, global emissions are shown to have steadily increased.
We can see that emissions were significantly lower before the Industrial Revolution. Up until the middle of the twentieth century, emissions growth was slow. In 1950, human activity caused global CO2 emissions of 6 billion tonnes.
More than 22 billion metric tonnes were produced by 1990, more than four times as much as in 1970. There has been a rapid increase in emissions, and we now produce more than 34 billion tonnes of pollution annually.
While emissions growth has slowed in recent years, they have not yet reached their maximum level.
We can see how the carbon emission has region-wise in last few decades. Europe and the United States dominated global emissions until the late twentieth century. From 1900 to 1950, Europe and the United States accounted for over 85% of annual emissions; by 2000, that number had only slightly decreased.
Recent decades, however, have seen a dramatic shift in this regard.
As the 20th century progressed, the rest of the world saw a dramatic increase in its emissions, especially in Asia and, most notably, China.
Only about a third of emissions come from the United States and Europe.
Which country or region produces the most CO2 annually per capita?
When we divide a country’s total emissions by its population, we get an estimate of what each country’s citizen of that country contributes. This gives us an estimate of CO2 output per person.
The said analysis focuses on emissions generated within national borders, independent of international trade in goods. What happens to these numbers when we factor in international trade is the subject of much larger discussion basis the consumption-based emissions. Production numbers matter because they are used to set climate goals. Thanks and thanks to historical reconstructions, we have global production data for the entire planet dating back to the middle of the 18th century.
Emissions per person vary significantly from one region of the world to another.
Major oil producers are also among the world’s highest per capita CO2 emitters, especially those with small populations. They are primarily located in the Middle East: With 49 tonnes (t) per capita emissions in 2017, Qatar ranked first, followed by Trinidad and Tobago (30 t), Kuwait (25 t), the United Arab Emirates (25 t), Brunei (24 t), Bahrain (23 t), and Saudi Arabia (19t).
To counteract this, many of the world’s top oil producers have small populations and thus low total annual emissions. The United States, Australia, and Canada are all highly populated countries with correspondingly high levels of total emissions due to their high per capita emissions. Australia has the largest average footprint, at 17 tonnes per person, followed by the United States (16.2 tonnes) and Canada (15.6 tonnes).
The 2017 worldwide average was only 4.8 tonnes per person, which is more than three times higher than that. It stands to reason that countries with high standards of living also have a large carbon footprint, as there is a strong correlation between GDP and CO2 emissions per person. It becomes apparent, however, that countries with similar living standards can have vastly different per capita emissions. Numerous European countries, for instance, produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than either the United States or Canada.
The emissions of some European countries are not too far above the global average: There were 5.3 tonnes of emissions per person in Portugal in 2017, 5.5 tonnes in France, and 5.8 tonnes in the United Kingdom. This is considerably less than the sums spent on a similar lifestyle in neighbouring countries like Germany, the Netherlands, or Belgium. The electricity mix varies widely from country to country, depending on factors such as the share of electricity generated by nuclear and renewable sources. As a result, fossil fuels generated caused a much smaller percentage of electricity; in 2015, only 6% of France’s electricity came from fossil fuels, while that percentage was 55% in Germany.
Clearly, policy and technological decisions make a difference, but prosperity is still the primary driver of CO2 emissions.
There are still many countries with relatively low CO2 emissions per person. The annual average footprint is around 0.1 tonnes in many of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, Niger, and the Central African Republic. Compared to the United States, Australia, and Canada, that is over 160 times lower. It takes a Malian or Nigerien a whole year to equal what the average American or Australian emits in just 2.3 days. India’s average carbon footprint is 2.8 tonnes.
Think about this:
One of the significant aspects of carbon emission in today’s digitally evolved world is the average usage of technology by the country’s population of each count. With the rise of 5G data and smartphones in every remote area of the world, carbon emission has increased. It is we who need to understand development comes at a cost, and we must create harmony while we soring high the waves of development.
It is possible to neutralise carbon and create a much more harmonious world by evaluating and understanding the impact of carbon emissions on an individual level. If we all do our part, the world we leave for future generations will be much better than the one we inherited.