China’s greenhouse gas emissions have overtaken those of 37 developed nations combined for the first time, a new report suggests.
Rhodium Group, which tracks emissions data every year, says China was responsible more than 27 percent of the world’s emissions in 2019.
But because the country’s 1.4 billion population is so large, the amount of emissions released per person is actually slightly lower than that of the developed countries.
Researchers counted the 27 European Union members, as well as Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, the US and the UK, as ‘developed’ countries.
China’s per person emissions have drastically increased in recent years, however, tripling over the last decade.
The US was the second highest emitter in 2019, releasing 11% of the world’s total greenhouse gases. That works out at a massive 17.6 tons of emissions per person: the highest per capita figure of any country.
India was the third highest total emitter, overtaking the combined total of 27 EU countries for the first time. India, which is also home to nearly 1.4 billion people, contributed 6.6% of the world’s total in 2019.
Although China is the world’s biggest overall emitter by far, this is a relatively recent development, according to the report.
Since 1750, developed nations have emitted four times more carbon dioxide than China overall.
A large share of these emissions remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, contributing significantly to global warming, the report says.
Greenhouse gases trap heat near the surface of the Earth and raise global temperatures. These gases are mainly released through the burning of fossil fuels like coal.
Devastating environmental effects
Many countries, including China, have set targets to reduce their carbon emissions. But experts fear change won’t come soon enough.
Earlier this year, natural historian Sir David Attenborough told UN officials that climate change was ‘the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced’.
The British filmmaker said there are still ‘grounds for hope’ and that ‘if we act fast enough’, we can still ‘reach a new stable state’.
But he added: ‘No matter what we do now, it’s too late to avoid climate change, and the poorest and most vulnerable, those with the least security are now certain to suffer.’