The first Earth Day was in 1970, and by 1977, scientists generally agree that global warming was the greatest climate risk of the century. But it was not until 1992 that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted. The 197 countries that ratified the convention — including industrialized nations that are some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions — continue to work towards stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. Many have signed the Kyoto Protocols and the Paris Agreement.
On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the international accord to address climate change and the latest agreement by the UNFCCC.
Despite long-standing warnings of a climate emergency as well as efforts by some nations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the worldwide use of fossil fuels — and with it global greenhouse gas emissions — grew last year.
Last year’s uptick in emissions is not new. Global CO2 emissions have increased by an average of 1.5% annually over the past decade, although not all nations contribute to the increase and not by the same amount. On one hand, fossil fuel CO2 emissions decreased significantly in 25 countries, including in the United States, over the past decade, and it decreased in 40 countries over the past 25 years. On the other hand, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels more than doubled in 100 nations over the past 25 years.
Such dramatic increases in CO2 emissions frequently coincide with rapid economic growth. However, most of the world’s economies grew by consistently large margins over the 25-year period. While GDP growth was perhaps more dramatic in many of the countries with the largest carbon emissions growth, GDP growth was not insignificant also in the many countries reporting CO2 emissions decline over that period.
What distinguishes the economies on this list is the source of the growth. Qatar, for example, has increased its natural gas production substantially, and liquefaction processes release a lot of greenhouse gas. As is the case in other South-East Asian countries, Vietnam’s economy has grown substantially since 1992, and coal is being used to power that growth.
Resource extraction — which causes large CO2 emissions during extraction and process and later during use — has more than tripled worldwide since 1970, and continues to accelerate, even though the world population has only doubled in that time, according to the United Nations’ Global Resources Outlook 2019.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nations with the largest spikes in CO2 emissions between 1992 and 2017 using data from the Global Carbon Project 2018. (See our list list of the 25 Countries That Produce the Most CO2).