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Home » Climate change: These charts show what carbon emissions are doing to the planet

Climate change: These charts show what carbon emissions are doing to the planet

Climate change: These charts show what carbon emissions are doing to the planet

Over the past two weeks, the COP26 climate summit has seen policymakers from all over the world assemble in Glasgow, Scotland, to make commitments aimed at keeping the goals of the Paris Agreement alive.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change, which came into force in 2016 after being signed by 196 nations at COP21 the year before. It aims to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a key target of keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The United States rejoined the Paris Agreement earlier this year after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the treaty.

According to researchers at Our World in Data, global carbon emissions have been rapidly rising since the mid-20th century, peaking in 2019 before falling slightly last year. The organization’s data shows that emissions continued to rise after the Paris Agreement came into force.

China’s role

The charts below compare CO2 emissions over time between some of the world’s biggest polluters, as well as countries’ share of annual global carbon emissions.

China, whose economic power has surged in recent decades, has seen its emission levels soar alongside massive rises in production, placing it ahead of the United States when it comes to releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. In 2020, the world’s second-largest economy accounted for almost a third of global emissions from burning fossil fuels, according to Our World in Data.

Coal still fueling major economies

Using statistics from Our World in Data, the chart below shows how much coal is burned per capita in some of the world’s biggest coal-consuming economies.

When 28 countries joined an alliance aimed at phasing out coal during COP26 last week, the world’s biggest burners of coal — China, the U.S. and India — were notably missing.
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