Special Report

This Country Is the Worst Polluter in the World

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The world’s largest nations are desperately trying to minimize the behaviors that have massive negative effects on the climate and cause global warming. Many of those behaviors contribute to CO2 emissions, and when measured per capita, Qatar is the worst polluter in the world.

Most recently at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, the discussion has been about limiting methane and deforestation. The problem of deforestation has become so severe that Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain commented, “These great teeming ecosystems — these cathedrals of nature, are the lungs of our planet.”

But deforestation is only one of the topics discussed by world leaders. Another is CO2 emissions. Much of the blame for global warming has been put on several industrial nations, particularly China, the United States, India, Russia, and Japan. 

CO2 emissions can be measured by nation based on total tonnes per year. By this measure, China tops this list, according to comparison service Selectra “with 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, largely due to the export of consumer goods and its heavy reliance on coal.” The United States is second with 4.9 million tonnes, followed by India at 2.4 million tonnes. (Based on oil and gas company BP’s 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy.)

Another measure may be more telling — tonnes of CO2 per capita. Based on this measure, Qatar ranks the world’s worst polluted with 37.05 tonnes of CO2 per capita, followed by Kuwait at 23.49, and Saudi Arabia at 19.39. (And this city emits the most carbon dioxide in the world.)

Based on proven oil reserves, Saudi Arabia ranks second with 267,026 million barrels. Kuwait ranks sixth at 104,000 million, and Qatar ranks 14th at 25,244 million. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia ranks 41st by population at 34,813,871. Qatar ranks 109th at 2,881,053, and Kuwait ranks 129th at 4,270,571.

While the focus of restrictions centers squarely on the largest polluters by tonnes, the per capita emissions are rarely mentioned. 

The pollution problem is an issue for Saudi Arabia’s own citizens. The International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers reported that the air quality in Saudi Arabia is considered unsafe, based on the World Health Organization’s guidelines. The recent data indicates that the “annual mean concentration of PM2.5 is 88 µg/m3, exceeding the recommended maximum of 10 µg/m3.” (These are America’s 50 dirtiest cities.)

Click here to see the country that is the worst polluter in the world

Source: franckreporter / Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 37.05


Source: typhoonski / Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 23.49

Source: MOHAMED HUSSAIN YOUNIS / iStock via Getty Images

Saudi Arabia
> CO2 emissions per capita: 19.39

Source: BalkansCat / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 16.85


Source: David McNew / Getty Images News via Getty Images

United States
> CO2 emissions per capita: 15.74

Source: Lukas Schulze / Getty Images News via Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 9.70


Source: China Photos / Getty Images News via Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 7.72

Source: Denis Doyle / Getty Images News via Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 6.09

Source: anyaberkut / iStock via Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 5.02


Source: Lauren DeCicca / Getty Images News via Getty Images

> CO2 emissions per capita: 4.05

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