Historical carbon emissions: Why the usual suspects are nowhere to be seen

·1-min read
New Zealanders are each responsible for 5,764 tonnes of carbon dioxide since 1850.

Forget China or the United States -- New Zealand is the country that tops the list for carbon dioxide emissions when taking into account CO2 emissions per capita since 1850. Such is the surprising result of a recent study. Meanwhile, COP26 has until November 12 to find sustainable solutions and curb climate disruption.

When it comes to pointing the finger at those responsible for global warming, the world's most populous countries are soon in the firing line. Based on data for 2019, China released 9.8 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, while the US was responsible for 4.9 billion tonnes and India for 2.5 billion tonnes. Russia, meanwhile, was responsible for 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon emissions. Since 1850, humanity has emitted 2,500 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, according to the calculations of Carbon Brief, a British platform specializing in environmental data.

However, when the calculations focus on cumulative CO2 emissions per capita between 1850 and 2021, it's a different story. Indeed, it transpires that New Zealanders are each responsible for 5,764 tonnes of carbon emissions. Canada comes second with 4,772 tonnes and Australia is third with 4,013 tonnes. Note that no European country appears in the top 20. Above all, against all expectations, neither China nor India -- let alone Russia -- are responsible for greenhouse gas emissions on an individual scale. These countries are simply nowhere to be seen in the ranking.

Nevertheless, when it comes to cumulative emissions per population in 2021, Russia takes the sixth place with 1,181 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This is a little less than Trinidad and Tobago (1,187 tonnes), a Caribbean state of 5,128 km2, compared to more than 17 million km2 for Russia.

Bérangère Chatelain

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