Who has contributed the most to historic global emissions? Lets try to be fair

We are currently putting a great deal of pressure on emerging countries such as the BRICS (Brazil Russia India China South africa) and a whole host of other countries.

It certainly is true that these countries are emitting huge amounts of pollution, but perhaps a more fair way of looking at cuts is to see who has emitted the most carbon dioxide over history.

If each country was required to carbon capture all the carbon they have ever released who would have the biggest job?

Since 1751 roughly 1.5 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide have been released. It is not fair to tell an advancing country like Burundi that they have to have zero emissions without giving up the advantage that our huge historical emission have given us (i.e. technology which would allow them to generate electricity carbon emissions free)

The USA has emitted 400 billion tonnes of CO2, or about 27% of the planets emissions. Now it is no longer the biggest emitter (currently emitting about 16% of emissions, but its per capita emissions is 15 tonnes per person)

China has less than half this historical emissions, though at the current time it is emitting 28% of the worlds emissions – though as it has per capita emissions of just 7.38 tonnes the USA has much work to do before it can lecture.

The group of EU nations account for 10% of current emissions, though it historically counts for 22% of emissions in the past. We needn’t worry about when Europeans settled across the world, as the vast majority of emissions have been released since this date. We in the UK account for around 5% of Europe’s 22%.

India who is currently the third biggest emitter, only has historical emissions of 6%. Also their per capita emissions are only 1.91 tonnes. making it hard for them to cut their emissions by much on a personal level. Likewise Brazil with 462 million tonnes of annual emissions, has such low historical emissions that it doesn’t appear on fair charts.

What is clear is that the west has a huge historical carbon emissions deficit, and as humanity learns to capture and sequester carbon, we clearly in the west have a responsibility to sequester far more than countries such as Brazil. We need to be paying these countries to keep their sequestered carbon (such as the rainforests of Brazil the DRC and Indonesia). What’s more this needs to happen now – we need to find ways to bury billions of tonnes of carbon in the next few years.

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