In total, humans have pumped around 2,500bn tonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) into the atmosphere since 1850, leaving less than 500GtCO2 of remaining carbon budget to stay below 1.5C of warming.
This means that, by the end of 2021, the world will collectively have burned through 86% of the carbon budget for a 50-50 probability of staying below 1.5C, or 89% of the budget for a two-thirds likelihood, according to a new analysis by experts at the Carbon Brief climate analytics website.
In its article, Carbon Brief looked at national responsibility for historical CO2 emissions from 1850-2021, updating analysis published in 2019.
For the first time, the analysis includes CO2 emissions from land use and forestry, in addition to those from fossil fuels, which significantly alters the top 10.
In first place on the rankings, the US has released more than 509GtCO2 since 1850 and is responsible for the largest share of historical emissions, Carbon Brief analysis shows, with some 20% of the global total.
China is a relatively distant second, with 11%, followed by Russia (7%), Brazil (5%) and Indonesia (4%). The latter pair are among the top 10 largest historical emitters, due to CO2 from their land.
Meanwhile, large post-colonial European nations, such as Germany and the UK, account for 4% and 3% of the global total, respectively, not including overseas emissions under colonial rule.
These national totals are based on territorial CO2 emissions, reflecting where the emissions take place. In addition, the analysis looks at the impact of consumption-based emissions accounting in order to reflect trade in carbon-intensive goods and services. Such accounts are only available for recent decades, even though trade will have influenced national totals throughout modern history.
Despite making up 10% of the world’s population, industrialized nations have contributed 39% in overall carbon emissions since 1850, Carbon Brief said. Meanwhile, developing countries are responsible for 23% of emissions while making up 42% of the global population.
Industrialized countries (the U.S., Germany, Russia, the U.K., Japan and Canada) top the Carbon Brief ranking both for annual emissions and per-capita emissions. In contrast, China, India, Brazil and Indonesia’s per-capita emissions are much lower due to their large populations but still account for high overall emissions.