Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are greenhouse gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. A greenhouse gas (GHG) is a gas that absorbs and emits thermal radiation, creating a “greenhouse effect.” While carbon dioxide is important in keeping the Earth a habitable temperature, the excessive CO2 emissions caused by the increasing consumption of fossil fuels are disrupting Earth’s carbon cycle and accelerating global warming.
Global warming and climate change have several ecological impacts such as floods, extreme storms, sea-level rise, and disturbed water systems.
Between 2010 and 2017, total global CO2 emissions have increased from 33.1 gigatons to 36.2 gigatons and are projected to increase in the coming years. Unfortunately, CO2 emissions are increasing around the world and the nations that are emitting the highest amounts are not doing enough to reduced emissions.
There are several ways for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint, including eating less red meat, choosing to walk, bike, carpool or public transportation instead of driving their cars, and using reusable containers or bottles instead of buying individual packaging.
In general, developed countries have higher CO2 emissions. In the United States, energy use has increased in the past five years most likely due to greater heating and cooling demands and cheaper oil prices increase the number of people traveling. This increase comes after almost a decade of a decrease in energy use. The world is looking at these developed countries to lead the initiatives for lowering CO2 emissions.
China has the highest level of CO2 emissions, producing 904.07 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2015. The United States has the second-highest of 499.75 million tons, and has the second-highest CO2 emissions per capita of 15.53. Saudi Arabia has the highest CO2 emissions per capita of 16.85.
Below is a table of the 20 highest CO2-emitting countries in the world. Numbers are in millions of tons in the year 2015.