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Which Countries Produce The Most Carbon Emissions?

China Leads the Planet in CO2 Emissions, but Persian Gulf States Lead on Per Capita Basis

According to the World Bank’s current data, China was the leading emitter of carbon dioxide in 2011, outstripping the CO2 emitted by the U.S., India, and Russia combined.

This should come as no surprise, as a country’s carbon emissions generally have a positive relationship to both its population and level of industrial activity.

The opposite is seen on a per capita basis, where China and India have posted the lowest numbers. Small, energy intensive Persian Gulf emitters Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar have posted the highest levels per capita.

The chart below shows total and per capita emissions of CO2 on a country basis, breaking total country emissions out by fuel of origin. It is the World Bank’s snapshot in 2011.

(Click to enlarge)

Source: World Bank

Use of fossil energy for transportation and electricity generation accounts for the lion’s share of emissions caused by human activity, although land use and industrial production not related to energy generation account for a small percentage as well. This is most notably seen in the “Other” category accounting for 12 percent of China’s levels.

Solid and gaseous fuels cover coal and natural gas and are typically used for electricity generation and heating purposes. China and India generate more than two thirds of their electricity from coal while the U.S. and Germany follow close behind at about 45 percent each.

Burning Their Oil to Create Electricity

The Gulf States are highly dependent on oil and gas to generate electricity, contributing to their high per capita emissions levels. Gas is king in the UAE and Qatar, providing 100 percent of electricity generation there, while Russia and Saudi Arabia get between 40 and 50 percent from gas.

Outside of the Gulf States, liquid fuels primarily mean gasoline and LNG, although heating oil features prominently in Kuwait’s (62 percent) and Saudi Arabia’s (27 percent) electricity generation mixes. Gasoline use due to a much less concentrated population contributes about 40 percent of the U.S.’ total CO2 emissions.

Pollution and Manufacturing Activity Closely Related

While China’s per capita emissions were the second lowest of all countries after India, both countries were in the upper percentile in terms of highest mean annual exposure to air pollution, shown in the graph below. Related: Geopolitical Oil Glut: What Happens When Libya Exports 600,000 bpd in 4 Weeks?

(Click to enlarge)

Source: World Bank

According to the World Bank website, Mean Annual Air Pollution Exposure measures the average level of exposure of a nation’s population to concentrations of suspended particles measuring less than 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter, which are capable of penetrating deep into the respiratory tract and causing severe health damage.

Countries with higher emissions from manufacturing and construction generally have higher pollution levels because manufacturers tend to locate factories in less stringent regulatory environments and the majority of construction activity is occurring in the developing world. Kuwait’s high level of pollution but low industrial activity is likely due to the prevalence of fuel oil in its power mix.

Overall, pollution exposure in the developing world and Gulf States is almost four times that in the U.S, with low or nonexistent environmental standards for oil and gas operations as well as coal-fired plants, mills, smelters, and factories at the root of the cause.

Oil & Gas 360® spoke to World Bank requesting newer figures. The organization said it planned to publish data through 2013 next week

By Oil & Gas 360

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  • Robin on September 15 2016 said:
    This information above is from 2011, a lot has changed since 2011. The states production has grown a lot. With the oil boom that has been happening in the USA how can you even show these numbers.

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