The Top Carbon Dioxide Emitters

The world's countries contribute different amounts of heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. Carbon emissions from all sources of fossil fuel burning for a maximum period from 1751 to 2004 (or as long as a record is available) are shown. The following table lists the 20 countries with the highest carbon emissions.

The Top 20 Carbon Dioxide Emitters

(1,000 tons






1. united States




2. China (mainland)




3. Russian Federation




4. India




5. Japan




6. Germany




7. Canada




8. united Kingdom




9. Republic of Korea




10. Italy




11. Mexico








12. South Africa




13. Iran




14. Indonesia




15. France/Monaco




16. Brazil




17. Spain




18. Ukraine




19. Australia




20. Saudi Arabia




Source: Marland, G., T. A. Boden, R. J. Andres 2004. Global, Regional, and National CO2 Emissions. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Note: The above data was collected in 2004. In a report that appeared in the New York Times on June 14, 2008, China was identified as the largest emitter of CO2 in the world. The report was released by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and found that in 2007 China's emissions were 14 percent higher than those of the United States. In the previous year's annual study, the researchers found for the first time that China had become the world's leading emitter, with carbon emissions 7 percent higher by volume than the United States in 2006.

glossary adaptation an adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment. Adaptation to climate change refers to adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic changes. aerosols tiny bits of liquid or solid matter suspended in air. They come from natural sources such as erupting volcanoes and from waste gases emitted from automobiles, factories, and power plants. By reflecting sunlight, aerosols cool the climate and offset some of the warming caused by greenhouse gases.

albedo the relative reflectivity of a surface. A surface with high albedo reflects most of the light that shines on it and absorbs very little energy; a surface with a low albedo absorbs most of the light energy that shines on it and reflects very little. anthropogenic made by people or resulting from human activities. This term is usually used in the context of emissions that are produced as a result of human activities.

atmosphere the thin layer of gases that surround the Earth and allow living organisms to breathe. It reaches 400 miles (644 km) above the surface, but 80 percent is concentrated in the troposphere—the lower seven miles (11 km) above the Earth's surface. biodiversity different plant and animal species. biomass plant material that can be used for fuel. bleaching (coral) the loss of algae from corals that causes the corals to turn white. This is one of the results of global warming and signifies a die-off of unhealthy coral.

carbon a naturally abundant nonmetallic element that occurs in many inorganic and in all organic compounds. carbon cycle the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth.

carbon dioxide a colorless, odorless gas that passes out of the lungs during respiration. It is the primary greenhouse gas and causes the greatest amount of global warming.

carbon sink an area where large quantities of carbon are built up in the wood of trees, in calcium carbonate rocks, in animal species, in the ocean, or any other place where carbon is stored. These places act as a reservoir, keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.

climate the usual pattern of weather that is averaged over a long period of time.

climate model a quantitative way of representing the interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and ice. Models can range from relatively simple to extremely complicated.

climatologist a scientist who studies the climate.

concentration the amount of a component in a given area or volume. In global warming, it is a measurement of how much of a particular gas is in the atmosphere compared to all of the gases in the atmosphere.

condense the process that changes a gas into a liquid.

deforestation the large-scale cutting of trees from a forested area, often leaving large areas bare and susceptible to erosion.

desertification the process that turns an area into a desert.

ecological the protection of the air, water, and other natural resources from pollution or its effects. It is the practice of good envi-ronmentalism.

ecosystem a community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

electromagnetic spectrum the entire continuous spectrum of all forms of electromagnetic radiation, from gamma rays to long radio waves.

El Niño a cyclic weather event in which the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America become much warmer than normal and disturb weather patterns across the region. Its full name is El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Every few years, the temperature of the western Pacific rises several degrees above that of waters to the east. The warmer water moves eastward, causing shifts in ocean currents, jet-stream winds, and weather in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

emissions the release of a substance (usually a gas when referring to the subject of climate change) into the atmosphere.

estuary the widened tidal mouth of a river valley where freshwater comes into contact with seawater and where tidal effects are evident.

evaporation the process by which a liquid, such as water, is changed to a gas.

évapotranspiration the transfer of moisture from the Earth to the atmosphere by evaporation of water and transpiration from plants.

feedback a change caused by a process that, in turn, may influence that process. Some changes caused by global warming may hasten the process of warming (positive feedback); some may slow warming (negative feedback).

food chain the transfer of food energy from producer (plant) to consumer (animal) to decomposer (insect, fungus, etc.).

forb an herbaceous plant that is not a grass.

forcings mechanisms that disrupt the global energy balance between incoming energy from the Sun and outgoing heat from the Earth. By altering the global energy balance, such mechanisms "force" the climate to change. Today, anthropogenic greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere are forcing climate to behave as it is.

fossil fuel an energy source made from coal, oil, or natural gas. The burning of fossil fuels are one of the chief causes of global warming.

glacier a mass of ice formed by the buildup of snow over hundreds and thousands of years.

global warming an increase in the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere, caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases. This is also referred to as the "enhanced greenhouse effect" caused by humans.

global warming potential (GWP) a measure of how much a given mass of greenhouse gas is estimated to contribute to global warming. It is a relative scale, which compares the gas in question to that of the same mass of carbon dioxide, whose GWP is equal to 1.

Great Ocean Conveyor Belt a global current system in the ocean that transports heat from one area to another.

greenhouse effect the natural trapping of heat energy by gases present in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor. The trapped heat is then emitted as heat back to the Earth.

greenhouse gas a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and keeps the Earth warm enough to allow life to exist.

hydrologic cycle the natural sequence through which water passes into the atmosphere as water vapor, precipitates to the Earth in liquid or solid form, and ultimately returns to the atmosphere through evaporation.

Industrial Revolution the period during which industry developed rapidly as a result of advances in technology. This took place in Britain during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is an organization consisting of 2,500 scientists that assesses information in the scientific and technical literature related to the issue of climate change. The United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization established the IPCC jointly in 1988.

land use the management practice of a certain land cover type. Land use may be such things as forest, arable land, grassland, urban land, and wilderness.

land-use change an alteration of the management practice on a certain land-cover type. Land-use changes may influence climate systems because they affect evapotranspiration and sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. An example of land-use change is removing a forest to build a city.

methane a colorless, odorless, flammable gas that is the major ingredient of natural gas. Methane is produced wherever decay occurs and little or no oxygen is present.

moldboard plowing plowing using a curved metal plate in a plow that turns over the earth from the furrow.

niche an environment in which an organism could successfully survive and reproduce in the absence of competition. nitrogen as a gas, nitrogen takes up 80 percent of the volume of the Earth's atmosphere. It is also an element in substances such as fertilizer.

nitrous oxide a heat-absorbing gas in the Earth's atmosphere. Nitrous oxide is emitted from nitrogen-based fertilizers.

ozone a molecule that consists of three oxygen atoms. Ozone is present in small amounts in the Earth's atmosphere at 14 to 19 miles (23-31km) above the Earth's surface. A layer of ozone makes life possible by shielding the Earth's surface from most harmful ultraviolet rays. In the lower atmosphere, ozone emitted from auto exhausts and factories is an air pollutant. parts per million (ppm) the number of parts of a chemical found in 1

million parts of a particular gas, liquid, or solid. permafrost permanently frozen ground in the Arctic. As global warming increases, this ground is melting. photosynthesis the process by which plants make food using light energy, carbon dioxide, and water. protocol the terms of a treaty that have been agreed to and signed by all parties.

radiation the particles or waves of energy.

renewable something that can be replaced or regrown, such as trees, or a source of energy that never runs out, such as solar energy, wind energy, or geothermal energy. resources the raw materials from the Earth that are used by humans to make useful things. satellite any small object that orbits a larger one. Artificial satellites carry instruments for scientific study and communication. Imagery taken from satellites is used to monitor aspects of global warming such as glacier retreat, ice cap melting, desertification, erosion, hurricane damage, and flooding. Sea surface temperatures and measurements are also obtained from man-made satellites in orbit around the Earth.

simulation a computer model of a process that is based on actual facts. The model attempts to mimic, or replicate, actual physical processes.

symbiotic a relationship where two dissimilar organisms share a mutually beneficial relationship. temperate an area that has a mild climate and different seasons. thermal something that relates to heat.

trade winds winds that blow steadily from east to west and toward the equator. The trade winds are caused by hot air rising at the equator, with cool air moving in to take its place from the north and from the south. The winds are deflected westward because of the Earth's west-to-east rotation. tropical a region that is hot and often wet (humid). These areas are located around the Earth's equator. troposphere the bottom layer of the atmosphere, rising from sea level up to an average of about 7.5 miles (12 km). tundra a vast treeless plain in the Arctic with a marshy surface covering a permafrost layer. weather the conditions of the atmosphere at a particular time and place. Weather includes such measurements as temperature, precipitation, air pressure, and wind speed and direction.

further, resources

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment