Greenhouse gas emissions

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Annual greenhouse gas emissions per person (height of vertical bars) and per country (area of vertical bars) of the fifteen high-emitting countries.[1]

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities strengthen the greenhouse effect, contributing to climate change. Most is carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. The largest emitters include coal in China and large oil and gas companies. Human-caused emissions have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide by about 50% over pre-industrial levels. The growing levels of emissions have varied, but have been consistent among all greenhouse gases (GHGs). Emissions in the 2010s averaged 56 billion tons a year, higher than any decade before.[2]

Electricity generation, heat and transport are major emitters; overall energy is responsible for around 73% of emissions.[3] Deforestation and other changes in land use also emit carbon dioxide and methane. The largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions is agriculture, closely followed by gas venting and fugitive emissions from the fossil-fuel industry. The largest agricultural methane source is livestock. Agricultural soils emit nitrous oxide partly due to fertilizers. Similarly, fluorinated gases from refrigerants play an outsized role in total human emissions.

At current emission rates averaging six and a half tonnes per person per year, before 2030 temperatures may have increased by an average of 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) over pre-industrial levels, which is the limit for the G7 countries and aspirational limit of the Paris Agreement.[4]

Carbon accounting (or greenhouse gas accounting) is a framework of methods to measure and track how much greenhouse gas (GHG) an organization emits.[5]

A related concept, which is popular in the media is carbon footprint which is defined as a "certain amount of gaseous emissions that are relevant to climate change and associated with human production or consumption activities".[6]

Relevant greenhouse gases[edit]

Carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N
), methane, three groups of fluorinated gases (sulfur hexafluoride (SF
), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs)) are the major anthropogenic greenhouse gases.[7]: 147 [8]

Although CFCs are greenhouse gases, they are regulated by the Montreal Protocol, which was motivated by CFCs' contribution to ozone depletion rather than by their contribution to global warming. Note that ozone depletion has only a minor role in greenhouse warming, though the two processes are sometimes confused in the media. In 2016, negotiators from over 170 nations meeting at the summit of the United Nations Environment Programme reached a legally binding accord to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.[9][10][11]

Global estimates[edit]

Global greenhouse gas emissions are about 50 Gt per year[12] (6.6t per person[13]) and for 2019 have been estimated at 57 Gt CO2 eq including 5 Gt due to land use change.[14] In 2019, approximately 34% [20 GtCO2-eq] of total net anthropogenic GHG emissions came from the energy supply sector, 24% [14 GtCO2-eq] from industry, 22% [13 GtCO2-eq]from agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU), 15% [8.7 GtCO2-eq] from transport and 6% [3.3 GtCO2-eq] from buildings.[15]

While cities are sometimes considered to be disproportionate contributors to emissions, per-capita emissions tend to be lower for cities than the averages in their countries.[16]

At current emission rates, before 2030 temperatures may have increased by 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) over pre-industrial levels,[17][18] which is the limit for the G7 countries[19] and aspirational limit of the Paris Agreement.[20]

Measurements and calculations[edit]

In the highest-emitting countries, emission trends in recent decades sometimes diverge from longer-term historical trends.[21][22]
Annual CO2 emissions, total by country, not per capita (2017 data)
Data from:[1] [2] [3]
Global GHG Emissions by gas

There are several ways of measuring greenhouse gas emissions. Some variables that have been reported include:[23]

  • Definition of measurement boundaries: Emissions can be attributed geographically, to the area where they were emitted (the territory principle) or by the activity principle to the territory that produced the emissions. These two principles result in different totals when measuring, for example, electricity importation from one country to another, or emissions at an international airport.
  • Time horizon of different gases: The contribution of given greenhouse gas is reported as a CO2 equivalent. The calculation to determine this takes into account how long that gas remains in the atmosphere. This is not always known accurately[clarification needed] and calculations must be regularly updated to reflect new information.
  • The measurement protocol itself: This may be via direct measurement or estimation. The four main methods are the emission factor-based method, mass balance method, predictive emissions monitoring systems, and continuous emissions monitoring systems. These methods differ in accuracy, cost, and usability. Public information from space-based measurements of carbon dioxide by Climate Trace is expected to reveal individual large plants before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.[24]

These measures are sometimes used by countries to assert various policy/ethical positions on climate change.[25]: 94  The use of different measures leads to a lack of comparability, which is problematic when monitoring progress towards targets. There are arguments for the adoption of a common measurement tool, or at least the development of communication between different tools.[23]

Emissions may be tracked over long time periods, known as historical or cumulative emissions measurements. Cumulative emissions provide some indicators of what is responsible for greenhouse gas atmospheric concentration build-up.[26]: 199 

The national accounts balance tracks emissions based on the difference between a country's exports and imports. For many richer nations, the balance is negative because more goods are imported than they are exported. This result is mostly due to the fact that it is cheaper to produce goods outside of developed countries, leading developed countries to become increasingly dependent on services and not goods. A positive account balance would mean that more production was occurring within a country, so more operational factories would increase carbon emission levels.[27]

Emissions may also be measured across shorter time periods. Emissions changes may, for example, be measured against the base year of 1990. 1990 was used in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as the base year for emissions, and is also used in the Kyoto Protocol (some gases are also measured from the year 1995).[7]: 146, 149  A country's emissions may also be reported as a proportion of global emissions for a particular year.

Another measurement is of per capita emissions. This divides a country's total annual emissions by its mid-year population.[28]: 370  Per capita emissions may be based on historical or annual emissions.[25]: 106–107 

Carbon accounting (or greenhouse gas accounting) is a framework of methods to measure and track how much greenhouse gas an organization emits.[5]

Inventories and maps[edit]

Climate TRACE (Tracking Real-Time Atmospheric Carbon Emissions)[29] is an independent group which monitors and publishes greenhouse gas emissions within weeks.[30] It launched in 2021 before COP26,[31] and improves monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) of both carbon dioxide and methane.[32][33]

The group monitors sources such as coal mines and power station smokestacks worldwide,[34] with satellite data (but not their own satellites) and artificial intelligence.[35][36] Time magazine named it as one of the hundred best inventions of 2020.[37] Their emissions map is the largest global inventory and interactive map of greenhouse gas emission sources.[38][39]

Carbon footprint as a related concept[edit]

A carbon footprint (or greenhouse gas footprint) is a "certain amount of gaseous emissions that are relevant to climate change and associated with human production or consumption activities".[40] In some cases, the carbon footprint is expressed as the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) which is meant to sum up the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, place or product.[41][42] In other cases, only the carbon dioxide emissions are taken into account but not those of other greenhouse gases.[43] Greenhouse gases, including the carbon-containing gases carbon dioxide and methane, can be emitted through the burning of fossil fuels, land clearance, and the production and consumption of food, manufactured goods, materials, wood, roads, buildings, transportation and other services.[44] Beyond calculating carbon footprints for whole countries, it is possible to calculate the footprint of cities and smaller regions like neighborhoods but even sectors, companies and products.[45][46]

Put simply, humanity’s global carbon footprint is the headline indicator for climate change. The carbon footprint has been on an increasing trend during the 21st century, with the exception of a brief drop in 2020 because of the COVID-19 lockdown.[47] This is despite the fact that the Paris Agreement states that global temperatures must be capped at 1.5-2 °C by 2100 to attempt to prevent runaway climate change; this is the equivalent of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and at least 45% reduction in emissions by 2030.[48]

Overview of main sources[edit]

Modern global CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
Potential CO2 emissions from large fossil fuel projects 'carbon bombs' per country

Since about 1750, human activity has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. As of 2021, measured atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide were almost 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.[49] Natural sources of carbon dioxide are more than 20 times greater than sources due to human activity,[50] but over periods longer than a few years natural sources are closely balanced by natural sinks, mainly photosynthesis of carbon compounds by plants and marine plankton. Absorption of terrestrial infrared radiation by longwave absorbing gases makes Earth a less efficient emitter. Therefore, in order for Earth to emit as much energy as is absorbed, global temperatures must increase.[citation needed]

Burning fossil fuels is estimated to have emitted 62% of 2015 human GhG.[51] The largest single source is coal-fired power stations, with 20% of GHG as of 2021.[52]

The main sources of greenhouse gases due to human activity are:

The major sources of Greenhouse gases (GHG) are:

  • Land use (CO2 emissions)
  • Forestry (CO2-LULUCF)
  • Nitrous Acid (N2O)
  • Fluorinated gases (F-gases)
  • Compromising hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
  • nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) [56]

The seven sources of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion are (with percentage contributions for 2000–2004):[57]

This list needs updating, as it uses an out-of-date source. See the 2019 IPCC report for newer data.[needs update]

The largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions is agriculture, closely followed by gas venting and fugitive emissions from the fossil-fuel industry.[58][59] The largest agricultural methane source is livestock. Cattle (raised for both beef and milk, as well as for inedible outputs like manure and draft power) are the animal species responsible for the most emissions, representing about 65% of the livestock sector's emissions.[60] Agricultural soils emit nitrous oxide partly due to fertilizers.[61]

  • (N2O)
  • (F-gases)
  • (HFCs)
  • (PFCs)
  • (SF6)

A 2017 survey of corporations responsible for global emissions found that 100 companies were responsible for 71% of global direct and indirect emissions, and that state-owned companies were responsible for 59% of their emissions.[62][63]

Emissions by type of energy source[edit]

Life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of electricity supply technologies, median values calculated by IPCC[64]
Life cycle CO2 equivalent (including albedo effect) from selected electricity supply technologies according to IPCC 2014.[64][65] Arranged by decreasing median (gCO2eq/kWh) values.
Technology Min. Median Max.
Currently commercially available technologies
CoalPC 740 820 910
Gascombined cycle 410 490 650
Biomass – Dedicated 130 230 420
Solar PV – Utility scale 18 48 180
Solar PV – rooftop 26 41 60
Geothermal 6.0 38 79
Concentrated solar power 8.8 27 63
Hydropower 1.0 24 22001
Wind Offshore 8.0 12 35
Nuclear 3.7 12 110
Wind Onshore 7.0 11 56
Pre‐commercial technologies
Ocean (Tidal and wave) 5.6 17 28

1 see also environmental impact of reservoirs#Greenhouse gases.

Lifecycle GHG emissions, in g CO2 eq. per kWh, UNECE 2020[66]
Lifecycle CO2 emissions per kWh, EU28 countries, according to UNECE 2020.[66]
Technology gCO2eq/kWh
Hard coal PC, without CCS 1000
IGCC, without CCS 850
SC, without CCS 950
PC, with CCS 370
IGCC, with CCS 280
SC, with CCS 330
Natural gas NGCC, without CCS 430
NGCC, with CCS 130
Hydro 660 MW [67] 150
360 MW 11
Nuclear average 5.1
CSP tower 22
trough 42
PV poly-Si, ground-mounted 37
poly-Si, roof-mounted 37
CdTe, ground-mounted 12
CdTe, roof-mounted 15
CIGS, ground-mounted 11
CIGS, roof-mounted 14
Wind onshore 12
offshore, concrete foundation 14
offshore, steel foundation 13

List of acronyms:

Relative CO2 emission from various fuels[edit]

One liter of gasoline, when used as a fuel, produces 2.32 kg (about 1300 liters or 1.3 cubic meters) of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. One US gallon produces 19.4 lb (1,291.5 gallons or 172.65 cubic feet).[68][69][70]

The mass of carbon dioxide that is released when one MJ of energy is released from fuel can be estimated to a good approximation.[71] For the chemical formula of diesel we use as an approximation C
. Note that diesel is a mixture of different molecules. As carbon has a molar mass of 12 g/mol and hydrogen (atomic!) has a molar mass of about 1 g/mol, so the fraction by weight of carbon in diesel is roughly 12/14. The reaction of diesel combustion is given by:

+ 3nO
⇌ 2nCO
+ 2nH

Carbon dioxide has a molar mass of 44g/mol as it consists of 2 atoms of oxygen (16 g/mol) and 1 atom of carbon (12 g/mol). So 12 g of carbon yield 44 g of Carbon dioxide. Diesel has an energy content of 42.6 MJ per kg or 23.47 gram of Diesel contain 1 MJ of energy. Putting everything together the mass of carbon dioxide that is produced by releasing 1MJ of energy from diesel fuel can be calculated as:

For gasoline, with 22 g/MJ and a ratio of carbon to hydrogen atoms of about 6 to 14, the estimated value of carbon emission for 1MJ of energy is:

Mass of carbon dioxide emitted per quantity of energy for various fuels[72]
Fuel name CO2
(lbs/106 Btu)
Hydrogen gas 0 0.0 0.0
Natural gas 117 50.30 181.08
Liquefied petroleum gas 139 59.76 215.14
Propane 139 59.76 215.14
Aviation gasoline 153 65.78 236.81
Automobile gasoline 156 67.07 241.45
Kerosene 159 68.36 246.10
Fuel oil 161 69.22 249.19
Tires/tire derived fuel 189 81.26 292.54
Wood and wood waste 195 83.83 301.79
Coal (bituminous) 205 88.13 317.27
Coal (sub-bituminous) 213 91.57 329.65
Coal (lignite) 215 92.43 332.75
Petroleum coke 225 96.73 348.23
Tar-sand bitumen [citation needed] [citation needed] [citation needed]
Coal (anthracite) 227 97.59 351.32

Emissions by type of greenhouse gas[edit]

GHG emissions 2019 by gas type
without land-use change
using 100 year GWP
Total: 51.8 GtCO2e[73]: 4 

  CO2 mostly by fossil fuel (72%)
  CH4 methane (19%)
nitrous oxide (6%)
  Fluorinated gases (3%)

CO2 emissions by fuel type[74]

  coal (39%)
  oil (34%)
  gas (21%)
  cement (4%)
  others (1.5%)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the dominant emitted greenhouse gas, while methane (CH4) emissions almost have the same short-term impact.[75] Nitrous oxide (N2O) and fluorinated gases (F-Gases) play a minor role.

GHG emissions are measured in CO2 equivalents determined by their global warming potential (GWP), which depends on their lifetime in the atmosphere. Estimations largely depend on the ability of oceans and land sinks to absorb these gases. Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) including methane, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), tropospheric ozone and black carbon persist in the atmosphere for a period ranging from days to 15 years; whereas carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for millennia.[76] Reducing SLCP emissions can cut the ongoing rate of global warming by almost half and reduce the projected Arctic warming by two-thirds.[77]

GHG emissions in 2019 were estimated at 57.4 GtCO2e, while CO2 emissions alone made up 42.5 Gt including land-use change (LUC).[78]

While mitigation measures for decarbonization are essential on the longer term, they could result in weak near-term warming because sources of carbon emissions often also co-emit air pollution. Hence, pairing measures that target carbon dioxide with measures targeting non-CO2 pollutants – short-lived climate pollutants, which have faster effects on the climate, is essential for climate goals.[79]

Carbon dioxide (CO2)[edit]

  • Fossil fuel: oil, gas and coal (89%) are the major driver of anthropogenic global warming with annual emissions of 35.6 GtCO2 in 2019.[73]: 20 
  • Cement production (4%) is estimated at 1.42 GtCO2
  • Land-use change (LUC) is the imbalance of deforestation and reforestation. Estimations are very uncertain at 4.5 GtCO2. Wildfires alone cause annual emissions of about 7 GtCO2[80][81]
  • Non-energy use of fuels, carbon losses in coke ovens, and flaring in crude oil production.[73]

Methane (CH4)[edit]

Historical and future temperature projections showing importance of mitigating short-lived climate pollutants like methane

Methane has a high immediate impact with a 5-year global warming potential of up to 100.[75] Given this, the current 389 Mt of methane emissions[73]: 6  has about the same short-term global warming effect as CO2 emissions, with a risk to trigger irreversible changes in climate and ecosystems. For methane, a reduction of about 30% below current emission levels would lead to a stabilization in its atmospheric concentration.

  • Fossil fuels (32%), again, account for most of the methane emissions including coal mining (12% of methane total), gas distribution and leakages (11%) as well as gas venting in oil production (9%).[73]: 6 [73]: 12 
  • Livestock (28%) with cattle (21%) as the dominant source, followed by buffalo (3%), sheep (2%), and goats (1.5%).[73]: 6, 23 
  • Human waste and wastewater (21%): When biomass waste in landfills and organic substances in domestic and industrial wastewater is decomposed by bacteria in anaerobic conditions, substantial amounts of methane are generated.[73]: 12 
  • Rice cultivation (10%) on flooded rice fields is another agricultural source, where anaerobic decomposition of organic material produces methane.[73]: 12 

Nitrous oxide (N

N2O has a high GWP and significant Ozone Depleting Potential. It is estimated that the global warming potential of N2O over 100 years is 265 times greater than CO2.[82] For N2O, a reduction of more than 50% would be required for a stabilization.

  • Most emissions (56%) by agriculture, especially meat production: cattle (droppings on pasture), fertilizers, animal manure.[73]: 12 
  • Combustion of fossil fuels (18%) and bio fuels.[83]
  • Industrial production of adipic acid and nitric acid.


Fluorinated gases include hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3). They are used by switchgear in the power sector, semiconductor manufacture, aluminum production and a largely unknown source of SF6.[73]: 38  Continued phase down of manufacture and use of HFCs under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will help reduce HFC emissions and concurrently improve the energy efficiency of appliances that use HFCs like air conditioners, freezers and other refrigeration devices.


Hydrogen leakages contribute to indirect global warming.[84] When hydrogen is oxidized in the atmosphere, the result is an increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases in both the troposphere and the stratosphere.[85]

While grey hydrogen indirectly contributes to global warming, green hydrogen has the opposite effect. Green hydrogen, in the form of hydrogen fuel cells, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks by replacing fossil-based fuels, such as gasoline and diesel. [86]

Black carbon[edit]

Black carbon is formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass. It is not a greenhouse gas but a climate forcing agent. Black carbon can absorb sunlight and reduce albedo when deposited on snow and ice. Indirect heating can be caused by the interaction with clouds.[87] Black carbon stays in the atmosphere for only several days to weeks.[88] Emissions may be mitigated by upgrading coke ovens, installing particulate filters on diesel-based engines, reducing routine flaring, and minimizing open burning of biomass.

Emissions by sector[edit]

Contributions to climate change broken down by economic sector as of 2019
2016 global greenhouse gas emissions by sector.[89] Percentages are calculated from estimated global emissions of all Kyoto Greenhouse Gases, converted to CO2 equivalent quantities (GtCO2e).

Global greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to different sectors of the economy. This provides a picture of the varying contributions of different types of economic activity to climate change, and helps in understanding the changes required to mitigate climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions can be divided into those that arise from the combustion of fuels to produce energy, and those generated by other processes. Around two thirds of greenhouse gas emissions arise from the combustion of fuels.[90]

Energy may be produced at the point of consumption, or by a generator for consumption by others. Thus emissions arising from energy production may be categorized according to where they are emitted, or where the resulting energy is consumed. If emissions are attributed at the point of production, then electricity generators contribute about 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions.[91] If these emissions are attributed to the final consumer then 24% of total emissions arise from manufacturing and construction, 17% from transportation, 11% from domestic consumers, and 7% from commercial consumers.[92] Around 4% of emissions arise from the energy consumed by the energy and fuel industry itself.

The remaining third of emissions arise from processes other than energy production. 12% of total emissions arise from agriculture, 7% from land use change and forestry, 6% from industrial processes, and 3% from waste.[90]

Electricity generation[edit]

Global greenhouse gas emissions by gas.

Coal-fired power stations are the single largest emitter, with over 20% of global GHG emissions in 2018.[93] Although much less polluting than coal plants, natural gas-fired power plants are also major emitters,[94] taking electricity generation as a whole over 25% in 2018.[95] Notably, just 5% of the world's power plants account for almost three-quarters of carbon emissions from electricity generation, based on an inventory of more than 29,000 fossil-fuel power plants across 221 countries.[96] In the 2022 IPCC report, it is noted that providing modern energy services universally would only increase greenhouse gas emissions by a few percent at most. This slight increase means that the additional energy demand that comes from supporting decent living standards for all would be far lower than current average energy consumption.[97]

Agriculture, forestry and land use[edit]


Agriculture contributes towards climate change through greenhouse gas emissions and by the conversion of non-agricultural land such as forests into agricultural land.[98][99] The agriculture, forestry and land use sector contribute between 13% and 21% of global greenhouse gas emissions.[100] Emissions of nitrous oxide, methane make up over half of total greenhouse gas emission from agriculture.[101] Animal husbandry is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.[102]

The agricultural food system is responsible for a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions.[103][104] In addition to being a significant user of land and consumer of fossil fuel, agriculture contributes directly to greenhouse gas emissions through practices such as rice production and the raising of livestock.[105] The three main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases observed over the past 250 years have been fossil fuels, land use, and agriculture.[106] Farm animal digestive systems can be put into two categories: monogastric and ruminant. Ruminant cattle for beef and dairy rank high in greenhouse-gas emissions; monogastric, or pigs and poultry-related foods, are low. The consumption of the monogastric types may yield less emissions. Monogastric animals have a higher feed-conversion efficiency, and also do not produce as much methane.[103] Furthermore, CO2 is actually re-emitted into the atmosphere by plant and soil respiration in the later stages of crop growth, causing more greenhouse gas emissions.[107] The amount of greenhouse gases produced during the manufacture and use of nitrogen fertilizer is estimated as around 5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The single most important way to cut emissions from it is to use less fertilizers, while increasing the efficiency of their use.[108]

There are many strategies that can be used to help soften the effects, and the further production of greenhouse gas emissions - this is also referred to as climate-smart agriculture. Some of these strategies include a higher efficiency in livestock farming, which includes management, as well as technology; a more effective process of managing manure; a lower dependence upon fossil-fuels and nonrenewable resources; a variation in the animals' eating and drinking duration, time and location; and a cutback in both the production and consumption of animal-sourced foods.[103][109][110][111] A range of policies may reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector for a more sustainable food system.[112][113]
Mean annual carbon loss from tropical deforestation.[114]

Deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. A study shows annual carbon emissions (or carbon loss) from tropical deforestation have doubled during the last two decades and continue to increase. (0.97 ±0.16 PgC per year in 2001–2005 to 1.99 ±0.13 PgC per year in 2015–2019)[115][114]

Land-use change[edit]
Substantial land-use change contributions to emissions have been made by Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Pacific Islands. Area of rectangles shows total emissions for that region.[116]

Land-use change, e.g., the clearing of forests for agricultural use, can affect the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by altering how much carbon flows out of the atmosphere into carbon sinks.[117] Accounting for land-use change can be understood as an attempt to measure "net" emissions, i.e., gross emissions from all sources minus the removal of emissions from the atmosphere by carbon sinks.[25]: 92–93 

There are substantial uncertainties in the measurement of net carbon emissions.[118] Additionally, there is controversy over how carbon sinks should be allocated between different regions and over time.[25]: 93  For instance, concentrating on more recent changes in carbon sinks is likely to favour those regions that have deforested earlier, e.g., Europe.

In 1997, human-caused Indonesian peat fires were estimated to have released between 13% and 40% of the average annual global carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels.[119][120][121]


Aviation and shipping (dashed line) produce a significant proportion of global carbon dioxide emissions


Approximately 3.5% of the overall human impacts on climate are from the aviation sector. The impact of the sector on climate in the late 20 years had doubled, but the part of the contribution of the sector in comparison to other sectors did not change because other sectors grew as well.[122]

Trucking and haulage[edit]

Over a quarter of global transport CO2 emissions are from road freight,[123] so many countries are further restricting truck CO2 emissions to help limit climate change.[124]

Buildings and construction[edit]

In 2018, manufacturing construction materials and maintaining buildings accounted for 39% of carbon dioxide emissions from energy and process-related emissions. Manufacture of glass, cement, and steel accounted for 11% of energy and process-related emissions.[125] Because building construction is a significant investment, more than two-thirds of buildings in existence will still exist in 2050. Retrofitting existing buildings to become more efficient will be necessary to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement; it will be insufficient to only apply low-emission standards to new construction.[126] Buildings that produce as much energy as they consume are called zero-energy buildings, while buildings that produce more than they consume are energy-plus. Low-energy buildings are designed to be highly efficient with low total energy consumption and carbon emissions—a popular type is the passive house.[125]

The global design and construction industry is responsible for approximately 39 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.[127] Green building practices that avoid emissions or capture the carbon already present in the environment, allow for reduced footprint of the construction industry, for example, use of hempcrete, cellulose fiber insulation, and landscaping.[128]

In 2019, the building sector was responsible for 12 GtCO2-eq emissions. More than 95% of these emissions were carbon, and the remaining 5% were CH4 N2O and halocarbon.[129]

Embodied carbon emissions, or upfront carbon emissions (UCE), are the result of creating and maintaining the materials that form a building.[130] As of 2018, "Embodied carbon is responsible 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 28% of global building sector emissions ... Embodied carbon will be responsible for almost half of total new construction emissions between now and 2050."[131]

It has been suggested that buildings with "high carbon frames should be taxed like cigarettes,"[132] to create a presumption in favour of timber, stone, and other zero-carbon architectural design techniques."[132][133]

Industrial processes[edit]

As of 2020 Secunda CTL is the world's largest single emitter, at 56.5 million tonnes CO2 a year.[134]

Around 6% of emissions are fugitive emissions, which are waste gases released by the extraction of fossil fuels.

Steel and aluminum[edit]

Steel and aluminum are key economic sectors for the carbon capture and storage. According to a 2013 study, "in 2004, the steel industry along emits about 590M tons of CO2, which accounts for 5.2% of the global anthropogenic GHG emissions. CO2 emitted from steel production primarily comes from energy consumption of fossil fuel as well as the use of limestone to purify iron oxides."[135]


Plastics are produced mainly from fossil fuels. It was estimated that between 3% and 4% of global GHG emissions are associated with plastics' life cycles.[136] The EPA estimates[137] as many as five mass units of carbon dioxide are emitted for each mass unit of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) produced—the type of plastic most commonly used for beverage bottles,[138] the transportation produce greenhouse gases also.[139] Plastic waste emits carbon dioxide when it degrades. In 2018 research claimed that some of the most common plastics in the environment release the greenhouse gases methane and ethylene when exposed to sunlight in an amount that can affect the earth climate.[140][141]

Due to the lightness of plastic versus glass or metal, plastic may reduce energy consumption. For example, packaging beverages in PET plastic rather than glass or metal is estimated to save 52% in transportation energy, if the glass or metal package is single-use, of course.

In 2019 a new report "Plastic and Climate" was published. According to the report, the production and incineration of plastics will contribute in the equivalent of 850 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere in 2019. With the current trend, annual life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of plastics will grow to 1.34 billion tonnes by 2030. By 2050, the life cycle emissions of plastics could reach 56 billion tonnes, as much as 14 percent of the Earth's remaining carbon budget.[142] The report says that only solutions which involve a reduction in consumption can solve the problem, while others like biodegradable plastic, ocean cleanup, using renewable energy in plastic industry can do little, and in some cases may even worsen it.[143]

Pulp and paper[edit]

The global print and paper industry accounts for about 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions.[144] Greenhouse gas emissions from the pulp and paper industry are generated from the combustion of fossil fuels required for raw material production and transportation, wastewater treatment facilities, purchased power, paper transportation, printed product transportation, disposal and recycling.

Various services[edit]

Digital services[edit]

In 2020 data centers (excluding cryptocurrency mining) and data transmission each used about 1% of world electricity.[145] The digital sector produces between 2% and 4% of global GHG emissions,[146] a large part of which is from chipmaking.[147] However the sector reduces emissions from other sectors which have a larger global share, such as transport of people,[148] and possibly buildings and industry.[149]

Mining for proof-of-work cryptocurrencies requires enormous amounts of electricity and consequently comes with a large carbon footprint.[150] Proof-of-work blockchains such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero were estimated to have added between 3 million and 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere in the period from 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2017.[151] By the end of 2021, Bitcoin was estimated to produce 65.4 million tonnes of CO2, as much as Greece,[152] and consume between 91 and 177 terawatt-hours annually. Bitcoin is the least energy-efficient cryptocurrency, using 707.6 kilowatt-hours of electricity per transaction.[153][154][155]

Health care[edit]

The healthcare sector produces 4.4% - 4.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions.[156]

Based on the 2013 life cycle emissions in the health care sector, it is estimated that the GHG emissions associated with US health care activities may cause an additional 123,000 to 381,000 DALYs annually.[157]

Water supply and sanitation[edit]

Water and sanitation services contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are grouped into three scopes in the international greenhouse gas protocol: direct emissions, as well as two types of indirect emissions (see below).[158] [159]: 9 
Solutions exist to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of water and sanitation services.[160] These solutions into three categories which partly overlap: Firstly "reducing water and energy consumption through lean and efficient approaches"; secondly "embracing circular economy to produce energy and valuable products"; and thirdly by "planning to reduce GHG emissions through strategic decisions".[159]: 28  The mentioned lean and efficient approaches include for example finding ways to reduce water loss from water networks and to reduce infiltration of rainwater or groundwater into sewers.[159]: 29  Also, incentives can to encourage households and industries to reduce their water consumption and their energy requirements for water heating.[159]: 31  There is another method to reduce the energy requirements for the treatment of raw water to make drinking water out of it: protecting the quality of the source water better.[159]: 32 


According to UNEP, global tourism is a significant contributor to the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.[161]

Emissions by other characteristics[edit]

The responsibility for anthropogenic climate change differs substantially among individuals, e.g. between groups or cohorts.


Researchers report that, on average, the elderly played "a leading role in driving up GHG emissions in the past decade and are on the way to becoming the largest contributor" due to factors such as demographic transition, low informed concern about climate change and high expenditures on carbon-intensive products like energy which is used i.a. for heating rooms and private transport.[162][163] They are less affected by climate change impacts,[164] but have e.g. the same vote-weights for the available electoral options.

By socio-economic class[edit]

Emissions of the richest 1% are more than twice that of the poorest 50%. Compliance with the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C goal would require the richest 1% to reduce emissions by at least 30 times, while per-person emissions of the poorest 50% could approximately triple.[165]
Though total CO2 emissions (size of pie charts) differ substantially among high-emitting regions, the pattern of higher income classes emitting more than lower income classes is consistent across regions.[166] The world’s top 1% of emitters emit over 1000 times more than the bottom 1%.[166]
Scaling the effect of wealth to the national level: richer (developed) countries emit more CO2 per person than poorer (developing) countries, the emission amounts being roughly proportional to GDP per person.[167]

Fueled by the consumptive lifestyle of wealthy people, the wealthiest 5% of the global population has been responsible for 37% of the absolute increase in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. It can be seen that there is a strong relationship between income and per capita carbon dioxide emissions.[168] Almost half of the increase in absolute global emissions has been caused by the richest 10% of the population.[169] In the newest report from the IPCC 2022, it states that the lifestyle consumptions of the poor and middle class in emerging economies produce approximately 5–50 times less the amount that the high class in already developed high-income countries.[170][171] Variations in regional, and national per capita emissions partly reflect different development stages, but they also vary widely at similar income levels. The 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute a disproportionately large share of global household GHG emissions.[171]

Studies find that the most affluent citizens of the world are responsible for most environmental impacts, and robust action by them is necessary for prospects of moving towards safer environmental conditions.[172][173]

According to a 2020 report by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute,[174][175] the richest 1% of the global population have caused twice as much carbon emissions as the poorest 50% over the 25 years from 1990 to 2015.[176][177][178] This was, respectively, during that period, 15% of cumulative emissions compared to 7%.[179] The bottom half of the population is directly-responsible for less than 20% of energy footprints and consume less than the top 5% in terms of trade-corrected energy. The largest disproportionality was identified to be in the domain of transport, where e.g. the top 10% consume 56% of vehicle fuel and conduct 70% of vehicle purchases.[180] However, wealthy individuals are also often shareholders and typically have more influence[181] and, especially in the case of billionaires, may also direct lobbying efforts, direct financial decisions, and/or control companies:

Regional and national attribution of emissions[edit]

Greenhouse gas intensity[edit]

Greenhouse gas intensity is a ratio between greenhouse gas emissions and another metric, e.g., gross domestic product (GDP) or energy use. The terms "carbon intensity" and "emissions intensity" are also sometimes used.[182] Emission intensities may be calculated using market exchange rates (MER) or purchasing power parity (PPP).[25]: 96  Calculations based on MER show large differences in intensities between developed and developing countries, whereas calculations based on PPP show smaller differences. According to a study discussing the relationship between urbanization and carbon emissions, urbanization is becoming a huge player in the global carbon cycle. Depending on total carbon emissions done by a city that hasn't invested in carbon efficiency or improved resource management, the global carbon cycle is projected to reach 75% of the world population by 2030.[183]

Cumulative and historical emissions[edit]

Cumulative CO2 emission by world region
Cumulative per person emissions by world region in 3 time periods
CO2 Emissions by source since 1880

Cumulative anthropogenic (i.e., human-emitted) emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel use are a major cause of global warming,[184] and give some indication of which countries have contributed most to human-induced climate change. In particular, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for at least 150 years, whilst methane and nitrous oxides generally disappear within a decade or so. The graph gives some indication of which regions have contributed most to human-induced climate change.[185] [186]: 15  When these numbers are calculated per capita cumulative emissions based on then-current population the situation is shown even more clearly. The ratio in per capita emissions between industrialized countries and developing countries was estimated at more than 10 to 1.

Non-OECD countries accounted for 42% of cumulative energy-related CO2 emissions between 1890 and 2007.[187]: 179–80  Over this time period, the US accounted for 28% of emissions; the EU, 23%; Japan, 4%; other OECD countries 5%; Russia, 11%; China, 9%; India, 3%; and the rest of the world, 18%.[187]: 179–80 

Overall, developed countries accounted for 83.8% of industrial CO2 emissions over this time period, and 67.8% of total CO2 emissions. Developing countries accounted for industrial CO2 emissions of 16.2% over this time period, and 32.2% of total CO2 emissions.

However, what becomes clear when we look at emissions across the world today is that the countries with the highest emissions over history are not always the biggest emitters today. For example, in 2017, the UK accounted for just 1% of global emissions.[188]

In comparison, humans have emitted more greenhouse gases than the Chicxulub meteorite impact event which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.[189]

Transport, together with electricity generation, is the major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector continue to rise, in contrast to power generation and nearly all other sectors. Since 1990, transportation emissions have increased by 30%. The transportation sector accounts for around 70% of these emissions. The majority of these emissions are caused by passenger vehicles and vans. Road travel is the first major source of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, followed by aircraft and maritime.[190][191] Waterborne transportation is still the least carbon-intensive mode of transportation on average, and it is an essential link in sustainable multimodal freight supply chains.[192]

Buildings, like industry, are directly responsible for around one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from space heating and hot water consumption. When combined with power consumption within buildings, this figure climbs to more than one-third.[193][194][195]

Within the EU, the agricultural sector presently accounts for roughly 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with methane from livestock accounting for slightly more than half of 10%.[196]

Estimates of total CO2 emissions do include biotic carbon emissions, mainly from deforestation.[25]: 94  Including biotic emissions brings about the same controversy mentioned earlier regarding carbon sinks and land-use change.[25]: 93–94  The actual calculation of net emissions is very complex, and is affected by how carbon sinks are allocated between regions and the dynamics of the climate system.

Fossil fuel CO2 emissions on a log (natural and base 10) scale

The graphic shows the logarithm of 1850–2019 fossil fuel CO2 emissions;[74] natural log on left, actual value of Gigatons per year on right. Although emissions increased during the 170-year period by about 3% per year overall, intervals of distinctly different growth rates (broken at 1913, 1945, and 1973) can be detected. The regression lines suggest that emissions can rapidly shift from one growth regime to another and then persist for long periods of time. The most recent drop in emissions growth - by almost 3 percentage points - was at about the time of the 1970s energy crisis. Percent changes per year were estimated by piecewise linear regression on the log data and are shown on the plot; the data are from The Integrated Carbon Observation system.[197]

Changes since a particular base year[edit]

The sharp acceleration in CO2 emissions since 2000 to more than a 3% increase per year (more than 2 ppm per year) from 1.1% per year during the 1990s is attributable to the lapse of formerly declining trends in carbon intensity of both developing and developed nations. China was responsible for most of global growth in emissions during this period. Localised plummeting emissions associated with the collapse of the Soviet Union have been followed by slow emissions growth in this region due to more efficient energy use, made necessary by the increasing proportion of it that is exported.[57] In comparison, methane has not increased appreciably, and N
by 0.25% y−1.

Using different base years for measuring emissions has an effect on estimates of national contributions to global warming.[186]: 17–18 [198] This can be calculated by dividing a country's highest contribution to global warming starting from a particular base year, by that country's minimum contribution to global warming starting from a particular base year. Choosing between base years of 1750, 1900, 1950, and 1990 has a significant effect for most countries.[186]: 17–18  Within the G8 group of countries, it is most significant for the UK, France and Germany. These countries have a long history of CO2 emissions (see the section on Cumulative and historical emissions).

Embedded emissions[edit]

One way of attributing greenhouse gas emissions is to measure the embedded emissions (also referred to as "embodied emissions") of goods that are being consumed. Emissions are usually measured according to production, rather than consumption.[199] For example, in the main international treaty on climate change (the UNFCCC), countries report on emissions produced within their borders, e.g., the emissions produced from burning fossil fuels.[187]: 179 [200]: 1  Under a production-based accounting of emissions, embedded emissions on imported goods are attributed to the exporting, rather than the importing, country. Under a consumption-based accounting of emissions, embedded emissions on imported goods are attributed to the importing country, rather than the exporting, country.

Davis and Caldeira (2010)[200]: 4  found that a substantial proportion of CO2 emissions are traded internationally. The net effect of trade was to export emissions from China and other emerging markets to consumers in the US, Japan, and Western Europe.

Historical trends[edit]

The Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) continuously releases data about CO2 emissions, budget and concentration at individual observation stations.

CO2 emissions[201][202]
Year Fossil fuels

and industry Gt C

Land use

change Gt C


Gt C


Gt CO2

2010 9.05 1.38 10.43 38.2
2011 9.35 1.34 10.69 39.2
2012 9.5 1.47 10.97 40.3
2013 9.54 1.52 11.06 40.6
2014 9.61 1.66 11.27 41.4
2015 9.62 1.7 11.32 41.5
2016 9.66 1.54 11.2 41.1
2017 9.77 1.47 11.24 41.3
2018 9.98 1.51 11.49 42.1


10.0 1.8 11.8 43.1

By country[edit]

Annual emissions[edit]

CO2 emissions vs GDP

Annual per capita emissions in the industrialized countries are typically as much as ten times the average in developing countries.[7]: 144  Due to China's fast economic development, its annual per capita emissions are quickly approaching the levels of those in the Annex I group of the Kyoto Protocol (i.e., the developed countries excluding the US).[203] China is, by a significant margin, Asia’s and the world’s largest emitter: it emits nearly 10 billion tonnes each year, more than one-quarter of global emissions. .[204] Other countries with fast growing emissions are South Korea, Iran, and Australia (which apart from the oil rich Persian Gulf states, now has the highest per capita emission rate in the world). On the other hand, annual per capita emissions of the EU-15 and the US are gradually decreasing over time.[203] Emissions in Russia and Ukraine have decreased fastest since 1990 due to economic restructuring in these countries.[205]

Africa and South America are both fairly small emitters: accounting for 3-4% of global emissions each. Both have emissions almost equal in size to international aviation and shipping.[206]

Energy statistics for fast-growing economies are less accurate than those for industrialized countries.[203]

2015 was the first year to see both total global economic growth and a reduction of carbon emissions.[207]

Top emitter countries[edit]

The top 40 countries emitting all greenhouse gases, showing both that derived from all sources including land clearance and forestry and also the CO2 component excluding those sources. Per capita figures are included. "World Resources Institute data".. Note that Indonesia and Brazil show very much higher than on graphs simply showing fossil fuel use.

In 2019, China, the United States, India, the EU27+UK, Russia, and Japan - the world's largest CO2 emitters - together accounted for 51% of the population, 62.5% of global gross domestic product, 62% of total global fossil fuel consumption and emitted 67% of total global fossil CO2. Emissions from these five countries and the EU28 show different changes in 2019 compared to 2018: the largest relative increase is found for China (+3.4%), followed by India (+1.6%). On the contrary, the EU27+UK (-3.8%), the United States (-2.6%), Japan (-2.1%) and Russia (-0.8%) reduced their fossil CO2 emissions.[208]

2019 Fossil CO2 emissions by country[208]
Country total emissions
per capita
per GDP
Global Total 38,016.57 100.00 4.93 0.29
 China 11,535.20 30.34 8.12 0.51
 United States 5,107.26 13.43 15.52 0.25
EU27+UK 3,303.97 8.69 6.47 0.14
 India 2,597.36 6.83 1.90 0.28
 Russia 1,792.02 4.71 12.45 0.45
 Japan 1,153.72 3.03 9.09 0.22
International Shipping 730.26 1.92 - -
 Germany 702.60 1.85 8.52 0.16
 Iran 701.99 1.85 8.48 0.68
 South Korea 651.87 1.71 12.70 0.30
International Aviation 627.48 1.65 - -
 Indonesia 625.66 1.65 2.32 0.20
 Saudi Arabia 614.61 1.62 18.00 0.38
 Canada 584.85 1.54 15.69 0.32
 South Africa 494.86 1.30 8.52 0.68
 Mexico 485.00 1.28 3.67 0.19
 Brazil 478.15 1.26 2.25 0.15
 Australia 433.38 1.14 17.27 0.34
 Turkey 415.78 1.09 5.01 0.18
 United Kingdom 364.91 0.96 5.45 0.12
 Italy,  San Marino and the Holy See 331.56 0.87 5.60 0.13
 Poland 317.65 0.84 8.35 0.25
 France and  Monaco 314.74 0.83 4.81 0.10
 Vietnam 305.25 0.80 3.13 0.39
 Kazakhstan 277.36 0.73 14.92 0.57
 Taiwan 276.78 0.73 11.65 0.23
 Thailand 275.06 0.72 3.97 0.21
 Spain and Andorra 259.31 0.68 5.58 0.13
 Egypt 255.37 0.67 2.52 0.22
 Malaysia 248.83 0.65 7.67 0.27
 Pakistan 223.63 0.59 1.09 0.22
 United Arab Emirates 222.61 0.59 22.99 0.34
 Argentina 199.41 0.52 4.42 0.20
 Iraq 197.61 0.52 4.89 0.46
 Ukraine 196.40 0.52 4.48 0.36
 Algeria 180.57 0.47 4.23 0.37
 Netherlands 156.41 0.41 9.13 0.16
 Philippines 150.64 0.40 1.39 0.16
 Bangladesh 110.16 0.29 0.66 0.14
 Venezuela 110.06 0.29 3.36 0.39
 Qatar 106.53 0.28 38.82 0.41
 Czechia 105.69 0.28 9.94 0.25
 Belgium 104.41 0.27 9.03 0.18
 Nigeria 100.22 0.26 0.50 0.10
 Kuwait 98.95 0.26 23.29 0.47
 Uzbekistan 94.99 0.25 2.90 0.40
 Oman 92.78 0.24 18.55 0.67
 Turkmenistan 90.52 0.24 15.23 0.98
 Chile 89.89 0.24 4.90 0.20
 Colombia 86.55 0.23 1.74 0.12
 Romania 78.63 0.21 4.04 0.14
 Morocco 73.91 0.19 2.02 0.27
 Austria 72.36 0.19 8.25 0.14
 Serbia and Montenegro 70.69 0.19 7.55 0.44
 Israel and  Palestine 68.33 0.18 7.96 0.18
 Belarus 66.34 0.17 7.03 0.37
 Greece 65.57 0.17 5.89 0.20
 Peru 56.29 0.15 1.71 0.13
 Singapore 53.37 0.14 9.09 0.10
 Hungary 53.18 0.14 5.51 0.17
 Libya 52.05 0.14 7.92 0.51
 Portugal 48.47 0.13 4.73 0.14
 Myanmar 48.31 0.13 0.89 0.17
 Norway 47.99 0.13 8.89 0.14
 Sweden 44.75 0.12 4.45 0.08
 Hong Kong 44.02 0.12 5.88 0.10
 Finland 43.41 0.11 7.81 0.16
 Bulgaria 43.31 0.11 6.20 0.27
 North Korea 42.17 0.11 1.64 0.36
 Ecuador 40.70 0.11 2.38 0.21
 Switzerland and  Liechtenstein 39.37 0.10 4.57 0.07
 New Zealand 38.67 0.10 8.07 0.18
 Ireland 36.55 0.10 7.54 0.09
 Slovakia 35.99 0.09 6.60 0.20
 Azerbaijan 35.98 0.09 3.59 0.25
 Mongolia 35.93 0.09 11.35 0.91
 Bahrain 35.44 0.09 21.64 0.48
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 33.50 0.09 9.57 0.68
 Trinidad and Tobago 32.74 0.09 23.81 0.90
 Tunisia 32.07 0.08 2.72 0.25
 Denmark 31.12 0.08 5.39 0.09
 Cuba 31.04 0.08 2.70 0.11
 Syria 29.16 0.08 1.58 1.20
 Jordan 28.34 0.07 2.81 0.28
 Sri Lanka 27.57 0.07 1.31 0.10
 Lebanon 27.44 0.07 4.52 0.27
 Dominican Republic 27.28 0.07 2.48 0.14
 Angola 25.82 0.07 0.81 0.12
 Bolivia 24.51 0.06 2.15 0.24
 Sudan and  South Sudan 22.57 0.06 0.40 0.13
 Guatemala 21.20 0.06 1.21 0.15
 Kenya 19.81 0.05 0.38 0.09
 Croatia 19.12 0.05 4.62 0.16
 Estonia 18.50 0.05 14.19 0.38
 Ethiopia 18.25 0.05 0.17 0.07
 Ghana 16.84 0.04 0.56 0.10
 Cambodia 16.49 0.04 1.00 0.23
 New Caledonia 15.66 0.04 55.25 1.67
 Slovenia 15.37 0.04 7.38 0.19
   Nepal 15.02 0.04 0.50 0.15
 Lithuania 13.77 0.04 4.81 0.13
 Côte d’Ivoire 13.56 0.04 0.53 0.10
 Georgia 13.47 0.04 3.45 0.24
 Tanzania 13.34 0.04 0.22 0.09
 Kyrgyzstan 11.92 0.03 1.92 0.35
 Panama 11.63 0.03 2.75 0.09
 Afghanistan 11.00 0.03 0.30 0.13
 Yemen 10.89 0.03 0.37 0.17
 Zimbabwe 10.86 0.03 0.63 0.26
 Honduras 10.36 0.03 1.08 0.19
 Cameroon 10.10 0.03 0.40 0.11
 Senegal 9.81 0.03 0.59 0.18
 Luxembourg 9.74 0.03 16.31 0.14
 Mozambique 9.26 0.02 0.29 0.24
 Moldova 9.23 0.02 2.29 0.27
 Costa Rica 8.98 0.02 1.80 0.09
 North Macedonia 8.92 0.02 4.28 0.26
 Tajikistan 8.92 0.02 0.96 0.28
 Paraguay 8.47 0.02 1.21 0.09
 Latvia 8.38 0.02 4.38 0.14
 Benin 8.15 0.02 0.69 0.21
 Mauritania 7.66 0.02 1.64 0.33
 Zambia 7.50 0.02 0.41 0.12
 Jamaica 7.44 0.02 2.56 0.26
 Cyprus 7.41 0.02 6.19 0.21
 El Salvador 7.15 0.02 1.11 0.13
 Botswana 7.04 0.02 2.96 0.17
 Brunei 7.02 0.02 15.98 0.26
 Laos 6.78 0.02 0.96 0.12
 Uruguay 6.56 0.02 1.89 0.09
 Armenia 5.92 0.02 2.02 0.15
 Curaçao 5.91 0.02 36.38 1.51
 Nicaragua 5.86 0.02 0.92 0.17
 Congo 5.80 0.02 1.05 0.33
 Albania 5.66 0.01 1.93 0.14
 Uganda 5.34 0.01 0.12 0.06
 Namibia 4.40 0.01 1.67 0.18
 Mauritius 4.33 0.01 3.41 0.15
 Madagascar 4.20 0.01 0.16 0.09
 Papua New Guinea 4.07 0.01 0.47 0.11
 Iceland 3.93 0.01 11.53 0.19
 Puerto Rico 3.91 0.01 1.07 0.04
 Barbados 3.83 0.01 13.34 0.85
 Burkina Faso 3.64 0.01 0.18 0.08
 Haiti 3.58 0.01 0.32 0.18
 Gabon 3.48 0.01 1.65 0.11
 Equatorial Guinea 3.47 0.01 2.55 0.14
 Réunion 3.02 0.01 3.40 -
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 2.98 0.01 0.03 0.03
 Guinea 2.92 0.01 0.22 0.09
 Togo 2.85 0.01 0.35 0.22
 Bahamas 2.45 0.01 6.08 0.18
 Niger 2.36 0.01 0.10 0.08
 Bhutan 2.12 0.01 2.57 0.24
 Suriname 2.06 0.01 3.59 0.22
 Martinique 1.95 0.01 5.07 -
 Guadeloupe 1.87 0.00 4.17 -
 Malawi 1.62 0.00 0.08 0.08
 Guyana 1.52 0.00 1.94 0.20
 Sierra Leone 1.40 0.00 0.18 0.10
 Fiji 1.36 0.00 1.48 0.11
 Palau 1.33 0.00 59.88 4.09
 Macao 1.27 0.00 1.98 0.02
 Liberia 1.21 0.00 0.24 0.17
 Rwanda 1.15 0.00 0.09 0.04
 Eswatini 1.14 0.00 0.81 0.11
 Djibouti 1.05 0.00 1.06 0.20
 Seychelles 1.05 0.00 10.98 0.37
 Malta 1.04 0.00 2.41 0.05
 Mali 1.03 0.00 0.05 0.02
 Cabo Verde 1.02 0.00 1.83 0.26
 Somalia 0.97 0.00 0.06 0.57
 Maldives 0.91 0.00 2.02 0.09
 Chad 0.89 0.00 0.06 0.04
 Aruba 0.78 0.00 7.39 0.19
 Eritrea 0.75 0.00 0.14 0.08
 Lesotho 0.75 0.00 0.33 0.13
 Gibraltar 0.69 0.00 19.88 0.45
 French Guiana 0.61 0.00 2.06 -
 French Polynesia 0.60 0.00 2.08 0.10
 The Gambia 0.59 0.00 0.27 0.11
 Greenland 0.54 0.00 9.47 0.19
 Antigua and Barbuda 0.51 0.00 4.90 0.24
 Central African Republic 0.49 0.00 0.10 0.11
 Guinea-Bissau 0.44 0.00 0.22 0.11
 Cayman Islands 0.40 0.00 6.38 0.09
 Timor-Leste 0.38 0.00 0.28 0.10
 Belize 0.37 0.00 0.95 0.14
 Bermuda 0.35 0.00 5.75 0.14
 Burundi 0.34 0.00 0.03 0.04
 Saint Lucia 0.30 0.00 1.65 0.11
 Western Sahara 0.30 0.00 0.51 -
 Grenada 0.23 0.00 2.10 0.12
 Comoros 0.21 0.00 0.25 0.08
 Saint Kitts and Nevis 0.19 0.00 3.44 0.14
 São Tomé and Príncipe 0.16 0.00 0.75 0.19
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 0.15 0.00 1.32 0.11
 Samoa 0.14 0.00 0.70 0.11
 Solomon Islands 0.14 0.00 0.22 0.09
 Tonga 0.13 0.00 1.16 0.20
 Turks and Caicos Islands 0.13 0.00 3.70 0.13
 British Virgin Islands 0.12 0.00 3.77 0.17
 Dominica 0.10 0.00 1.38 0.12
 Vanuatu 0.09 0.00 0.30 0.09
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 0.06 0.00 9.72 -
 Cook Islands 0.04 0.00 2.51 -
 Falkland Islands 0.03 0.00 10.87 -
 Kiribati 0.03 0.00 0.28 0.13
 Anguilla 0.02 0.00 1.54 0.12
 Saint Helena,  Ascension and  Tristan da Cunha 0.02 0.00 3.87 -
Faroes 0.00 0.00 0.04 0.00
The C-Story of Human Civilization by PIK

United States[edit]

Though the U.S.'s per capita and per GDP emissions have declined significantly, the raw numerical decline in emissions is much less substantial.[209]
Transportation in the United States is the largest source of greenhouse gas[210]

US greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector[211]

  Transportation (28.6%)
  Electricity generation (25.1%)
  Industry (22.9%)
  Agriculture (10.2%)
  Commercial (6.9%)
  Residential (5.8%)
  U.S. territories (0.4%)
The United States produced 5.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020,[212] the second largest in the world after greenhouse gas emissions by China and among the countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions per person. In 2019 China is estimated to have emitted 27% of world GHG, followed by the United States with 11%, then India with 6.6%.[213] In total the United States has emitted a quarter of world GHG, more than any other country.[214][215][216] Annual emissions are over 15 tons per person and, amongst the top eight emitters, is the highest country by greenhouse gas emissions per person.[217] However, the IEA estimates that the richest decile in the US emits over 55 tonnes of CO2 per capita each year.[218] Because coal-fired power stations are gradually shutting down, in the 2010s emissions from electricity generation fell to second place behind transportation which is now the largest single source.[219] In 2020, 27% of the GHG emissions of the United States were from transportation, 25% from electricity, 24% from industry, 13% from commercial and residential buildings and 11% from agriculture.[220] In 2021, the electric power sector was the second largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 25% of the U.S. total.[221] These greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to climate change in the United States, as well as worldwide.


China has the most total annual emissions (area of rectangle) of any nation, and has higher than average per capita emissions.[222]
Cumulatively over time, emissions from China have caused more economic damage globally than any other nation except the U.S.[223]

Greenhouse gas emissions by China are the largest of any country in the world both in production and consumption terms, and stem mainly from coal burning in China, including coal-fired power stations, coal mining,[224] and blast furnaces producing iron and steel.[225] When measuring production-based emissions, China emitted over 14 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2eq of greenhouse gases in 2019,[226] 27% of the world total.[227][228] When measuring in consumption-based terms, which adds emissions associated with imported goods and extracts those associated with exported goods, China accounts for 13 gigatonnes (Gt) or 25% of global emissions.[229]

Despite having the largest emissions in the world, China's large population means its per person emissions have remained considerably lower than those in the developed world.[229] This corresponds to over 10.1 tonnes CO2eq emitted per person each year, slightly over the world average and the EU average but significantly lower than the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States, with its 17.6 tonnes per person.[229] Accounting for historic emissions, OECD countries produced four times more CO2 in cumulative emissions than China, due to developed countries' early start in industrialization.[227][229]

The targets laid out in China's nationally determined contribution in 2016 will likely be met, but are not enough to properly combat global warming.[230] China has committed to peak emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2060.[231] In order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C coal plants in China without carbon capture must be phased out by 2045.[232] China continues to build coal-fired power stations in 2020 and promised to "phase down" coal use from 2026.[233]


Greenhouse gas emissions by India are the third largest in the world and the main source is coal.[234] India emitted 2.8 Gt of CO2eq in 2016 (2.5 including LULUCF).[235][236] 79% were CO2, 14% methane and 5% nitrous oxide.[236] India emits about 3 gigatonnes (Gt) CO2eq of greenhouse gases each year; about two tons per person,[237] which is half the world average.[238] The country emits 7% of global emissions.[239]

As of 2019 these figures are quite uncertain, but a comprehensive greenhouse gas inventory is within reach.[240] Cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore air pollution in India, would have health benefits worth 4 to 5 times the cost, which would be the most cost-effective in the world.[241]

The Paris Agreement commitments included a reduction of this intensity by 33–35% by 2030.[242] India's annual emissions per person are less than the global average,[243] and the UNEP forecasts that by 2030 they will be between 3 and 4 tonnes.[239]

In 2019 China is estimated to have emitted 27% of world GhG, followed by the US with 11%, then India with 6.6%.[244]

The Indian national carbon trading scheme may be created in 2023.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions[edit]

Climate change mitigation is action to limit climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases or removing those gases from the atmosphere.[245]: 2239  The recent rise in global average temperature is mostly caused by emissions from fossil fuels burning (coal, oil, and natural gas). Mitigation can reduce emissions by transitioning to sustainable energy sources, conserving energy, and increasing efficiency. In addition, carbon dioxide (CO2) can be removed from the atmosphere by enlarging forests, restoring wetlands and using other natural and technical processes, which are grouped together under the term of carbon sequestration.[246]: 12 [247]

Solar energy and wind power have the highest climate change mitigation potential at lowest cost compared to a range of other options.[248] Variable availability of sunshine and wind is addressed by energy storage and improved electrical grids, including long-distance electricity transmission, demand management and diversification of renewables.[249]: 1  Emissions from infrastructure that directly burns fossil fuels, such as vehicles and heating appliances, can be reduced through electrifying the infrastructure so that it is powered by electricity rather than fuels. Energy efficiency is improved using heat pumps and electric vehicles. If industrial processes must create carbon dioxide, carbon capture and storage can reduce net emissions.[250]
Share of EU firms taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (in %)[251]

Fiscal decentralisation and carbon reductions[edit]

As carbon oxides are one important source of greenhouse gas, having means to reduce it is important. One suggestion, is to consider some means in relation to fiscal decentralisation. Previous research found that the linear term of fiscal decentralization promotes carbon emissions, while the non-linear term mitigates it.[clarification needed] It verified the inverted U-shaped curve between fiscal decentralization and carbon emissions.[example needed] Besides, increasing energy prices for non-renewable energy decrease carbon emission due to a substitution effect. Among other explanatory variables, improvement in the quality of institutions decreases carbon emissions, while the gross domestic product increases it. Strengthening fiscal decentralization, lowering non-renewable energy prices,[clarification needed] and improving institutional quality to check the deteriorating environmental quality in the study sample and other worldwide regions can reduce carbon emissions.[252]

Effect of policy[edit]

Governments have taken action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change. Assessments of policy effectiveness have included work by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Energy Agency,[253][254] and United Nations Environment Programme.[255] Policies implemented by governments have included[256][257][258] national and regional targets to reduce emissions, promoting energy efficiency, and support for a renewable energy transition, such as Solar energy, as an effective use of renewable energy because solar uses energy from the sun and does not release pollutants into the air.

Countries and regions listed in Annex I of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (i.e., the OECD and former planned economies of the Soviet Union) are required to submit periodic assessments to the UNFCCC of actions they are taking to address climate change.[258]: 3 


Global CO2 emissions and probabilistic temperature outcomes of different policies

Climate change scenarios or socioeconomic scenarios are projections of future greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions used by analysts to assess future vulnerability to climate change.[259] Scenarios and pathways are created by scientists[260] to survey any long term routes and explore the effectiveness of mitigation and helps us understand what the future may hold this will allow us to envision the future of human environment system.[260] Producing scenarios requires estimates of future population levels, economic activity, the structure of governance, social values, and patterns of technological change. Economic and energy modelling (such as the World3 or the POLES models) can be used to analyze and quantify the effects of such drivers.

Scientists can develop separate international, regional and national climate change scenarios. These scenarios are designed to help stakeholders understand what kinds of decisions will have meaningful effects on climate change mitigation or adaptation. Most countries developing adaptation plans or Nationally Determined Contributions will commission scenario studies in order to better understand the decisions available to them.

International goals for mitigating climate change through international processes like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goal 13 ("Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts") are based on reviews of these scenarios. For example, the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C was released in 2018 order to reflect more up-to-date models of emissions, Nationally Determined Contributions, and impacts of climate change than its predecessor IPCC Fifth Assessment Report published in 2014 before the Paris Agreement.[261]

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

With the current catastrophe of epic magnitude and immense complexity, it is far from practical to evaluate the long run effects of COVID-19 epidemic on GHG emissions. However, it is predicted that the COVID-19 and response actions will result in a regional drop in the GHG emissions in practically all the countries by the short term (by 2025).[262] In 2020, carbon dioxide emissions fell by 6.4% or 2.3 billion tonnes globally.[263] In April 2020, NOx emissions fell by up to 30%.[264] In China, lockdowns and other measures resulted in a 26% decrease in coal consumption, and a 50% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions.[265] Greenhouse gas emissions rebounded later in the pandemic as many countries began lifting restrictions, with the direct impact of pandemic policies having a negligible long-term impact on climate change.[263][266] In addition, by 2040, there is a prediction that reduced GHG emissions and economic losses will partially disappear globally.[267] However, decreased human activity during the pandemic diverted attention from ongoing activities such as accelerated deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.[268][269] The hindrance of environmental policy efforts, combined with economic slowdown may have contributed to slowed investment in green energy technologies.[270][271]

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