A brief look at global carbon dioxide emissions

To fully understand why geopolitics are so important when it comes to climate change and to better understand how it can be fought, I will give in today’s article an overview of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.

Nearly half of the global emissions come from two countries, the United States and China. Far behind are the other biggest emitters like Russia, Japan or India. France is the 13th carbon dioxide emitter with around 400 millions metric tons of carbon dioxide.


On the left is a chart with a breakout by countries. With this, we can see that the United States and China are almost at the same level. And China is expected to emit more CO² than the United States in the very next years (normally 2009 according to the International Energy Agency).

As China and the USA are so important in that regard, I decided to have a look at both countries electricity and energy generation in order to see if they had common points. In fact, to my humble knowledge there are several ones :

  • Coal predominance in electricity generation.

Half of the US electricity is generated by coal. Meanwhile, China consumes more coal than the USA, the European Union and Japan together and coal is responsible for 70 percent of electricity generation in the People’s Republic. This indeed raise several issues and global concerns as you will be able to read in the various links given below.

  • Lack of energy efficiency.

This is mostly the case for China which is known for its very low energy efficiency, notably in its industry. In the meantime, the United States can also improve their energy efficiency in various sectors such as the automotive industry.

  • Lack of clean energy sources.

Nuclear energy accounts for less than two percent in the electricity generation of China. Renewable energies have a small part of electricity generation. In the United States, 20 percent or so of total electricity is generated by nuclear. Renewables account for around 8 percent with hydropower alone for 5.6 percent.


One can hope that both countries will start any time soon to decrease their greenhouse gases emissions by working on their energy efficiency and by finding a solution on coal. These countries can use clean coal technologies, capture and stock the emitted carbon dioxide or also shift to a cleaner solution to produce energy.

Today’s article has been done by using many data sources. You will find the ones I used below :

Sources for the graph :

Related articles on Chinese coal :

  • Le Monde article : ” Le charbon chinois, menace écologique majeure ” | link
  • Courrier International article : ” Le charbon chinois enfume la planète ” | link
  • New York Times article : ” Pollution From Chinese Coal Casts a Global Shadow ” | link

Additional data found on Wikipedia :

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