According to Vital Climate Change Graphics, published by the United Nations Environmental Programme in Feb 2005, "Since pre-industrial times, the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases has grown significantly. The present level of carbon dioxide concentration (around 375 parts per million) is the highest for 420,000 years, and probably the highest for the past 20 million years." In order to combat climate change, it is important to determine the countries most responsible for climate changing emissions but this is complicated by the differing yardsticks used to measure greenhouse gas emissions.
Current Absolute CO2 Emissions
This measures each country's current emissions of greenhouse gases without taking into account the population of the country. This yardstick is the one favored by most of the developed world and using it makes China a major carbon polluter. Using figures from the Annual Energy Review 2008, published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration in June 2009, the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions in 2006 were:
China produced 6,017 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
The United States are second with 5,902 million metric tons.
Russia is third with 1,704 million metric tons.
India is fourth with 1,293 million metric tons.
Japan is a close fifth with 1,246 million metric tons.
Germany is sixth with 857 million metric tons.
Canada is seventh with 614 million metric tons.
The United Kingdom is eight with 585 million metric tons.
South Korea is ninth with 514 million metric tons.
Iran is tenth with 471 million metric tons.
In all, the world production of carbon dioxide in 2006 was 29,195 million metric tons.
Current per Capita CO2 Emissions
Judging a country's carbon dioxide emissions on a per capita basis gives a totally different picture. This yardstick is favored by most developing countries such as China, India and Brazil as a fairer measure of culpability for greenhouse gas emissions, since it makes the U.S. and the rest of the developed world the major carbon polluters. Taking the 2006 figures from CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion 2009 Edition, published by the International Energy Agency in June 2009 and ignoring very small population countries such as Gibraltar, Singapore and Luxembourg plus the oil producing Mid East countries such as Qatar and Bahrain, the figures are:
The United States produces 19.05 metric tons of carbon dioxide per person.
Australia is second with 18.78.
Canada is third with 16.47.
Russia is fourth with 11.14.
Germany is fifth with 10.00.
Korea is sixth with 9.87.
Japan is seventh with 9.41.
New Zealand is eight with 8.99.
The United Kingdom is ninth with 8.84.
Greece is tenth with 8.44.
China, India and Brazil are all below 5.00 metric tons per person of carbon dioxide.
Historical CO2 Emissions
Vital Climate Change Graphics gives the pre industrial level of carbon dioxide as 280 parts per million and the developing nations argue that the 31% increase to the present level of over 380 parts per million is largely due to the developed world's use of carbon in the preceding century. This claim by the developing nations is backed up by J. Roberts and Bradley Parks, authors of A Climate of Injustice, published by MIT Press in 2007 when they say, "Since virtually all the carbon dioxide emitted since 1945 is still in the atmosphere, and "early industrializers" are almost exclusively responsible for those emissions, rich nations would be required to make deep and immediate cuts." They go on to show that the leading countries responsible for historical carbon emissions are virtually identical with those responsible for the current per capita CO2 emissions.
Accurate greenhouse gas emission records are indeed needed to correctly monitor climate change. Countries that use these measurements as easycommercialpower.org.uk a means to evade their responsibilities in cutting back on large emissions will hasten the global, irreversible environmental damage that lowering greenhouse gas emissions are designed to avoid.