A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide and methane) caused by an individual, community, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent.
A greenhouse gas (GHG) is a gas absorbs and emits thermal radiation, creating a “greenhouse effect.” Greenhouse gases are important in keeping the Earth a habitable temperature; however, excessive emissions caused by the increase in consumption are disrupting Earth’s carbon cycle and accelerating global warming.
Reducing the Carbon Footprint
Generally, developed nations have higher carbon footprints. Some ways that nations can reduce their carbon footprint include:
- Using electricity from renewable energy sources
- Improving energy efficiency
- Promote biofuels in transportation
- Reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles
- Recover gases from landfills and reduce fluorinated gases
Individuals can also reduce their carbon footprint by:
- Choosing to walk, bike, carpool, or use public transportation instead of driving
- Using reusable containers or bottles instead of individual plastic ones
- Eating less red meat
Carbon Footprint by Country
Between 2010 and 2017, total global CO2 emissions have increased from 33.1 gigatons (GT) to 36.2 gigatons and are expected to continue increasing. While emissions are increasing around the world, the countries that are emitting the most are not doing enough to reduce their emissions and carbon footprint. This poses a large problem as many countries look to these developed nations to lead the initiatives for lowering emissions.
The top 20 emitters of CO2 are responsible for 78% of total global emissions.
The following countries are the ten largest emitters of carbon dioxide:
- China (9.3 GT)
- United States (4.8 GT)
- India (2.2 GT)
- Russia (1.5 GT)
- Japan (1.1 GT)
- Germany (0.7 GT)
- South Korea (0.6 GT)
- Iran (0.6 GT)
- Canada (0.5 GT)
- Saudi Arabia (0.5 GT)
China is the largest emitter of CO2 in the world, with about 9.3 GT of carbon dioxide emissions in 2017. This is about 28% of the world’s total emissions. China’s per capita emissions are around 6.5 tons, the 12th-highest of any country.
The United States has the second-highest carbon emissions at 4.8 GT in 2017. The United States is responsible for about 14% of the total global emissions. Additionally, the U.S. has the fourth-highest per capita emissions of 14.9 tons. After almost a decade of decrease in energy use, total energy consumption in the United States has increased in recent years likely because of greater heating and cooling demands and cheaper oil prices increasing the number of people traveling.