CO2 Emissions per Dollar of GDP

For all the flak China receives about its greenhouse gas emissions, the average Chinese produces less than a third the amount of CO2 than his American counterpart. It just so happens that there are 1.3 billion Chinese, and 0.3 billion Americans, so China ends up producing more CO2.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide, are produced from burning petrol, growing rice, and raising cattle . These greenhouse gases let in sun rays, but do not let out the heat that the rays generate on earth. This results in a greenhouse effect, where global temperatures are purported to be rising as a result of human activities.

The below map shows the per-capita emissions of greenhouse gases:

Greenhouse Gas Emissions per capita

Greenhouse Gas Emissions per capita

As you can see, the least damage is done by people in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. But these places also happen to be the poorest places: Because they don’t have much industry, they don’t churn out much CO2.

The below plot shows the correlation between poverty and green-ness. As you can see, each dollar of a rich person is attached to a smaller carbon cost than the dollar of a poor person. This is partially because rich people get most of their manufacturing done by poor people, but also because rich people are more environmentally conscious.

Plot: CO2 per Dollar vs. GDP per capita

Plot: CO2 per Dollar vs. GDP per capita

Lastly, here is a map of CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP, which shows how green different economies are:

CO2 Emissions per Dollar

CO2 Emissions per Dollar

CO2 emissions per Dollar of output are lowest in:

  • EU and Japan: highly regulated and environmentally conscious
  • sub-Saharan Africa: subsistence-based economies

…and highest in the industrializing economies of Asia.

Kudos to Brazilian output for being so green, despite the country’s middle-income status. Were these statistics to factor in the CO2 absorption from rainforests, Brazil and other equatorial countries would appear even greener.

Data from the Word Bank. Graphics produced on R.

Abbas Keshvani