China Emits More Carbon Dioxide Than The U.S. and EU Combined

The U.S. was historically the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, but China now emits more than the U.S. and EU combined.

Thus, Asia Pacific as a whole continues to drive global carbon dioxide emissions higher:

Asia Pacific carbon dioxide emissions continue to climb.

There are some positives in the data. Over the past decade, the U.S. has decreased annual carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 800 million tons. This is by far the most of any country in the world, and is primarily a result of shifting coal-fired power to natural gas and renewables. The EU has also made significant strides, reducing its annual carbon dioxide emissions by 681 million tons.

These reductions paled in comparison to China’s two billion ton per year increase in emissions, but China’s emissions have been relatively flat since 2013. This, combined with the decreases in the U.S. and EU, have helped slow the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions in the past decade versus the previous decade:

Global carbon dioxide emissions.

It is true that the U.S. has put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other country, and that U.S. per capita emissions are among the highest in the world. But it is also true that the U.S. won’t solve this problem alone (even if we weren’t dropping out of global climate treaties).

Regardless of the actions taken by developed countries, the primary driver of carbon dioxide emissions in coming decades will be areas of the world with huge populations, but with low, and growing per capita emissions. A small increase in those per capita emissions can result in a huge increase in overall emissions — amply demonstrated by Asia Pacific’s skyrocketing emissions.

Thus, the most pressing need in the world today is to ensure that countries can develop without a heavy reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, because this is the reason for the status quo.

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