Top 10 Countries Contributing to Greenhouse Gases
The world is getting warmer every day through a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect.
“The process is called the greenhouse effect because the exchange of incoming and outgoing radiation that warms the planet works in a similar way to a greenhouse.” - ClimateRealityProject.Org
Specifically, this heating of the planet’s surface can be attributed to greenhouse gases, which absorb and emit radiant energy and make the planet warmer.
Even if you were unaware of the greenhouse effect, you certainly have felt its effects. The planet’s average temperature rose by 35% between 1990 and 2018.
Now that we’re aware what greenhouse effect is and what are its effects, we can tackle this problem by finding out which countries emit the most greenhouse gases.
That is precisely why we’ve compiled this list of the top ten countries that contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
The fact that China tops this list shouldn’t be so surprising, given that it’s a massive secondary-sector economy operating at full capacity. It contributes almost 27% to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Moreover, we cannot forget that China has to serve 1.4 billion of its people and cater to the import needs of the rest of the world.
Growing heavy industry and a rapidly increasing population and the resulting energy demands led to China burning almost 9.3 billion tons of coal in 2017.
Moreover, it is predicted that China’s carbon emissions will be the fastest-growing within the next seven years. This is perhaps an indicator that the measures taken by China to control the situation may not be adequate.
2. United States of America
America is the second biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, being responsible for almost 15% of them.
Perhaps this doesn’t come as a surprise, as the world’s largest economy since 1871 was, for a long time, a manufacturing-driven economy.
Manufacturing involves the use of natural resources and the processes employed produce a lot of greenhouse gases.
Moreover, thanks to liberal vehicle emission laws till the 1970s, the U.S. hasn’t shied away from making our planet hotter.
Unfortunately, it continues to do so, with the current administration choosing to pull out of the Paris Agreement, whose sole objective was battling climate change.
Energy consumption and agricultural activities produce the most greenhouse gases in the U.S.
3. The E.U. 28
While the European Union may be a confederation of sovereign nation-states and not a country in itself, for practical considerations and for measuring their impact on the environment, the countries are grouped under the moniker of E.U. 28.
The E.U. 28, as is evident, comprises 28 countries which are part of the European Union, such as Belgium, Germany, France, etc. (the United Kingdom is a significant contributor, but its status as a member is shaky at best).
This grouping makes sense as the countries by themselves are too small to contribute significantly, but as a collective, they’re the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, being responsible for almost 10% of them.
Most of the E.U. 28’s emissions come from energy demands, and agricultural needs and industrial processes coming in as the second and third biggest causes respectively.
At number four in this list is India, and to help explain its position, perhaps you should keep in mind that it’s also referred to as a subcontinent, due to its size.
India is responsible for 6.6% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and given its population of 1.2 billion and the rapid industrialization, the figure is not surprising.
Though energy consumption is the leading cause of emissions in India, the share of agriculture is greater compared to other countries.
This is explained by the fact that regarding the number of people employed, India is chiefly an agrarian economy.
Lack of efficient infrastructure and an ineffective legal framework have also led to India bagging a spot in this list.
The largest country in the world regarding area is the fifth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
It is responsible for nearly 5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The energy sector is overwhelmingly responsible for the emissions while the industry, agriculture and waste sectors contribute the least.
Even though Russia doesn't have a large population, the country has managed to attract criticism after failing to keep its emissions in check. But the Russian government is taking bold steps to tackle this problem head on.
Further, Russia is expected to ratify the aforementioned Paris Agreement soon, signifying its commitment to preventing climate change.
One of the densest countries in the world regarding population, Japan takes the sixth spot on this list.
It contributes almost 3.1% to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the best-performing countries in this list.
This is because, when you consider the population density and Japan’s might as an industrial economy, you realize the extent of their achievement.
Energy requirements account for over 90% of Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions, with industry and agriculture accounting for relatively minor portions.
The seventh entry on our list is Brazil, the sixth largest country in the world and home to 210 million people. It accounts for 2.3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Surprisingly, Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions are primarily due to its agricultural activities and not its energy demands, as has been the case with most of the countries on the list.
But perhaps this is not surprising, considering Brazil’s economy is still agrarian and it is a top producer of coffee, soybeans, wheat, etc.
The energy sector still does contribute significantly to Brazil’s emissions (around 45% of them).
Brazil’s government has been less-than-impressive in controlling these emissions. For instance, it is one of the last countries to adopt the Euro-VI standards for vehicular emissions.
The third last country on our list is Indonesia, which accounts for 1.7% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Much like the other countries on this list, Indonesia’s emissions come from the energy production sector. Agriculture is also a substantial cause for these emissions.
Indonesia had a rich forest cover and carbon-rich peatlands, but these were converted and appropriated for commercial purposes, leading to a sharp spike in its greenhouse gas emissions.
In the middle of 2016, Indonesia pledged to the United Nations reduce its greenhouse emissions by 29%.
So far, Indonesia doesn’t seem to be on track to meet its target, and that's primarily due to weak implementation of existing policies.
Canada, the world’s second-largest country, was expected to rank higher on this list, but its current ranking is a testament to its commitment to preventing climate change.
However, this ranking must be taken with a pinch of salt.
With a relatively low population of approximately 37 million people, the demand for goods and services (and subsequently, natural resources) is weak.
Moreover, Canada’s economy is primarily service-based, which means the manufacturing sector is still young in the country.
It possesses the third largest petroleum reserves and is the fourth largest exporter of natural gas, yet it chooses to follow the path of sustainable development.
The last country on our list is Mexico.
The nation at the heart of the current U.S. federal government shutdown emits 1.68% of the world’s greenhouse gases.
Surprisingly, a look at the composition of the emissions reveals that while the energy sector still dominates the pie, the waste sector produces more GHGs than agriculture.
Considering that Mexico is one of the cradles of agriculture, this is most surprising.
On the legislative side, Mexico has been taking many steps to curb its emissions and has adopted the NSCC, which sets out its visions for the next 10, 20, and 40 years.
It also signed into force the General Climate Change Law, which incorporates its Paris Agreement commitments.
The steady rise of greenhouse gases is a cause for concern for all of us.
The energy sector continues to dominate greenhouse gas production around the world, implying we need to start by looking for sources of clean energy. The agriculture sector comes second, and changes to make it more environment-friendly are needed desperately.
Some countries are performing better than others and have brought into effect some legislation to tackle the problem. And that is a good sign, to say the least.