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Global CO2 emissions: are we getting better?

There has been no substantial decrease in global CO2 emissions with the rate steady at just under 5 Tons per person per year.

Following the review of CO2 emissions from each Australian state I wanted to put this into a global perspective. The relevant metric is to consider CO2 Tons per person (TPP). The data is from the World Bank who have great data set of CO2 emissions per capita from 1960 until 2010. The complete data set is available on under the Blog Data Library.
Firstly consider the latest figures from the World Bank data (2010) to give us something of a league table. Qatar is way out in front, producing over 40 Tons per person per year. Australia is pretty close to the US at almost 17 TPP per year. The Interesting figure is the World average of just under 5 TPP per year, reflecting the huge populations in less polluting countries.
The frightening thing is the ‘BRIC’ countries of Brazil, India and China who all have relatively low per person emissions but whose rate of development is going gangbusters. These countries could be the US level polluters of the future.

Figure 1: CO2 emissions Tons per person per year for 2010 for select countries.


There has been a lot of talk over the last 10 years about reducing our CO2 emissions. So how have we progressed in our pollution abatement strategies? Over the past 50 years the world CO2 emissions per person have slowly risen from 3 to nearly 5 Tons per person per year. The US has hovered around 20 TPP from the 80s to mid 2000s. Australia has been on a steady upward trend from 8.6 TPP in 1960 to 17 TPP in 2010.

Figure 2: CO2 emission per person through time (1960-2010)

It is probably unfair to consider a countries performance since 1960, as the push to decrease CO2 emissions has only been on in earnest for ten years or so. If we zoom in on the last ten years of the data (Figure 3: 2000-2010). Canada seems to be taking things seriously with a decline of about 15%.
There are some small drops across other countries in the last two years of reporting. We will have to wait and see if this is true effort to reduce pollution or simply a reflection of economic downturn due to the 2009 global financial crises.
Brazil and India are on a steady rise with a 10% increase by Brazil over the last 10 years and a 50% increase by India over the same period.
The scary line in Figure 3 is China with a dramatic increase in CO2 emissions in recent years, more than doubling their emissions from 2.9 TPP in 2002 to 6.2 TPP in 2010.
So, despite the clear scientific evidence and loud political rhetoric that we need to reduce CO2 emissions there appears to be no substantial or sustained decrease in CO2 emissions with the global CO2 emission rate steady at about 5 Tons per person per year.

Figure 3: CO2 emission per person through time (2000-2010)

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