Special Report

25 Countries That Produce the Most CO2 Emissions

Source: JGalione / Getty Images

5. Japan
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel (2017): 1,205.1 million metric tons
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel per person (2017): 9.5 metric tons
> Change from CO2 emissions in 1992: 2.4%
> Methane emissions (2012): 39.0 million metric tons (CO2e)
> Population (2017): 126.8 million
> GDP per capita (2017): $39,011

Japan’s CO2 emissions peaked in the three years following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, reaching 1,314 million metric tons of CO2 in 2013. Emissions have since been reduced to pre-2011 levels as the country has increased its use of renewables — now about 5% of its energy mix. Still, Japan is heavily reliant on oil and is criticized for its promotion of coal and technology to reduce CO2 emissions from coal.

Source: Greenpeace Russia / Wikimedia Commons

4. Russian Federation
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel (2017): 1,692.8 million metric tons
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel per person (2017): 11.7 metric tons
> Change from CO2 emissions in 1992: -15.1%
> Methane emissions (2012): 545.8 million metric tons (CO2e)
> Population (2017): 144.5 million
> GDP per capita (2017): $24,790

Coal remains one of the world’s largest sources of energy production. Approximately 40% of electricity produced worldwide came from coal sources in 2015. Russia is somewhat of an exception, relying heavily over the past 25 years on natural gas for electricity production — gas was the source of roughly half of the country’s electricity production in both 1992 and 2015. The nation’s coal production, however, has also surged over the same period. Russia is the sixth largest coal-producing nation in the world, and coal production has risen by 70% since the late 1990s to 373 million metric tons in 2015. According to the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project’s Carbon Majors Database, the growth has been driven largely by the coal industry’s expansion into Southwest Siberia, where the Kuznetsk coal basin is located.

Russia’s population is 2.8% smaller than it was 25 years ago, one of only two countries on this list to report a population decline since 1992. This could partially account for the 15.1% reduction in overall CO2 emissions from Russia.

Source: Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images


3. India
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel (2017): 2,466.8 million metric tons
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel per person (2017): 1.8 metric tons
> Change from CO2 emissions in 1992: 253.0%
> Methane emissions (2012): 636.4 million metric tons (CO2e)
> Population (2017): 1.34 billion
> GDP per capita (2017): $6,514

As is generally the case in the countries emitting the most CO2, a small group of companies accounts for a huge portion of emissions in India. Notably, state-owned Coal India alone emitted the equivalent of just over 1 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2015, or 2.4% of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions. This has placed the company among the world’s five corporations emitting the most CO2, according to the Carbon Majors Database.

While many of the world’s large national CO2 emitters have in recent decades reduced their reliance on coal as a source of electricity, India’s coal usage has risen — from 68% of electricity production in 1992 to 75% in 2015.

Source: Warren_Price / Getty Images

2. USA
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel (2017): 5,269.5 million metric tons
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel per person (2017): 16.2 metric tons
> Change from CO2 emissions in 1992: 1.8%
> Methane emissions (2012): 499.8 million metric tons (CO2e)
> Population (2017): 325.1 million
> GDP per capita (2017): $54,471

The United States was the world’s largest national CO2 emitter until 2006, when China surpassed U.S. emissions that year of 6,019 million metric tons of CO2. And while U.S. emissions have declined since, China’s emissions have steadily increased.

U.S. electricity production from coal sources has dropped in recent decades, from over half in 1992 to about a third of electricity production in 2015. At the same time, however, the United States has become the world’s largest producer of crude oil and significantly ramped up natural gas production and usage — though natural gas use results in relatively less CO2 emissions, the methane output during its production and destructive extraction techniques are by no means more environmentally friendly. Over the 25-year period through 2015, U.S. electricity production from natural gas sources grew from 13.1% to 31.9% of total electricity generated. In 2012, the latest data year, nearly 500 million metric tons of methane, a far more harmful GHG, was emitted by the United States, the fourth highest amount of countries on this list.

Source: JungleNews / Wikimedia Commons

1. China
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel (2017): 9,838.8 million metric tons
> CO2 emissions from fossil fuel per person (2017): 7.1 metric tons
> Change from CO2 emissions in 1992: 270.3%
> Methane emissions (2012): 1,752.3 million metric tons (CO2e)
> Population (2017): 1.39 billion
> GDP per capita (2017): $15,309

With the world’s largest population and for decades one of the fastest growing economies, China is far and away the world’s top CO2 emitter. Close to 10,000 million metric tons of CO2 from burning fossil fuel were emitted by the superpower in 2017. On a per capita basis, China’s CO2 emissions of 7.1 metric tons per person trail that of most countries on this list but still rank in the top 50 worldwide.

Driving China’s CO2 emissions is the nation’s massive coal production. China’s generation of electricity from coal has dropped slightly from 75% in 1992 to 70% in 2015. Still, overall coal production has tripled since 2000 to nearly 4,000 million metric tons — approximately half of all global coal production.

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