Do people or countries pollute, that is the question

November 13, 2019

Recently, I heard someone accuse China of being the world’s worst polluter based on its total carbon dioxide emissions (CO2). When I pointed out that per capita (per person) was more important than the total and mentioned that per capita in the United States was 15.53 tons of CO2 per person vs 6.59 tons for China, he refused to back down. To him, China was guilty of being the worst CO2 polluter on the planet, because of its total, not its per person number.

Saudi Arabia is the worst polluter on the planet because its population of 34.2 million produces 16.85 tons of CO2 per person (per capita).

If Saudi Arabia had China’s population, how much CO2 would its people produce?

The United States is ranked #3 for per capita (per person) CO2 emissions behind Saudi Arabia (#1) and Australia (#2).  China is ranked #12.

There are 195 countries in the world and if you click globalcarbonatlas.org, you will easily discover the population of each country and how much total CO2 pollution each country produces.

For instance, the United States has a population of 324,459,463 and it’s per capita CO2 emissions are 15.53 tones per person. China’s per capita (per person) emissions are 42.4-percent of the United States, but because China’s population is more than four times larger, the total amount of C02 is higher. China’s population is 1,409,517,317, and it’s per capita CO2 emissions are 6.59 tons per person.

If we got rid of all the people in a country, would that country still produce CO2 emissions?

U.S. 15.53 tons of CO2 per person vs China’s 6.59 tons


Watch the video and answer this question: what country has produced the most CO2 since 1960?

If you are interested, The Union of Concerned Scientists ranks the top 20 highest emitters of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions based on each country’s total and its per capita (per person) amount. The first chart is ranked by the total CO2 emission per country. Scroll down for the second chart that ranks the top twenty by individual (per capita) CO2 emissions. … The world’s per capita average is 4 tons of CO2 per person.  That means the population of the United States produces 3.88 times more CO2 than the global average vs China at 1.62 times.

Science Daily reports, “students conducted detailed interviews or made detailed estimates of the energy usage of 18 lifestyles (in the United States), spanning the gamut from a vegetarian college student and a 5-year-old up to the ultra-rich: Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. The energy impact for the rich was estimated from published sources, while all the others were based on direct interviews. The average annual carbon dioxide emissions per person, they found (for the ultra-rich) was 20 metric tons …

“But the ‘floor’ below which nobody in the U.S. can reach, no matter a person’s energy choices, turned out to be 8.5 tons …. That was the emissions calculated for a homeless person who ate in soup kitchens and slept in homeless shelters.”

Just in case you did not understand what Science Daily was saying: The ultra-rich in the United States produce 20 metric tons per person (per capita) and even a homeless individual in the U.S. still produces 8.5 tons of CO2 vs China’s per capita average of 6.59 tons, but to the individual I went all Rambo on, none of that matters, because China is guilty due to its country total. Since CO2 emissions are caused by individuals instead of countries, I wonder what his solution would be … to execute one billion Chinese to get China’s total CO2 emissions down. How many American’s would have to die to get that country’s per person CO2 emissions down to 4 tons per capita?

What is China doing to lower its per capita (per person) number?

Well, USG.gov says, “China is the largest producer of (clean) hydroelectricity, followed by Canada, Brazil, and the United States.”

China is cleaning up coal production by renovating old coal-burning facilities, and some Chinese sources estimate that China will possess the world’s largest high-efficiency coal power system by 2020. … Over the last decade, China’s investment in renewable energy and natural gas has surged. In 2017, almost half of global renewable energy investment came from China, totaling $125.9 billion.” – China power.org

What about the United States under illegitimate President Donald Trump? Politifact.com says, “Emissions did fall slightly between 2016 and 2017. But the rate of decline slowed under Trump and the month-to-month changes have been modest. Whatever decline has occurred on Trump’s watch is unlikely to stem from his own policies. Changes to emissions levels tend to come either from changing economic incentives, government policy over the long term, and factors beyond human control, such as the weather.”

The New York Times reports, “How Trump Is Ensuring That Greenhouse Gas Emissions Will Rise”

Yes or No – is China the worst CO2 emitter in the world?

Your answer will depend on rational logic vs confirmation bias. If your thinking is ruled by bias, you will say yes, if your thinking is based on rational logic, you will say no.

Science Daily says, “In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias (or confirmatory bias) is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions, leading to statistical errors.”

What about you: do you make judgments and decisions based on confirmation bias or logic and facts?

Oh, and if you are one of “those” climate change denialists like Dumb-Dumb Donald Trump, and do not think CO2 emissions are a problem, I want you to know that exposure to CO2 can produce a variety of health effects. These may include headaches, dizziness, restlessness, a tingling or pins or needles feeling, difficulty breathing, sweating, tiredness, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, coma, asphyxia, and convulsions. In fact, ToxTown says, “Breathing in high amounts of carbon dioxide may be life-threatening.”

Also consider that there are more than 7.7 billion humans living on this planet and when we average CO2 emissions per person, The World Bank says it is almost five tons each. However, that average is not accurate because some countries produce more CO2 per person than others. For the United States, that average per person is 16.5 tons (according to The World Bank). For China, it is 7.5 tons per person, and in India, it is 1.7 tons per person, way below the global average.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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