The Biggest Contributors to Global Warming As Joe Biden Holds Climate Summit

A virtual summit on climate change hosted by President Joe Biden continues into its second day on Friday.

The president invited 40 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to discuss humanity's response to perhaps the most pressing issue of our time.

The world's nations emit hugely different quantities of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases are contributing to the warming of our planet. But which nations are the biggest greenhouse gas emitters?

Below is a list showing the nations that emit the largest amount of carbon dioxide (CO2)—perhaps the most dangerous greenhouse gas from a climate standpoint—via the combustion of coal, natural gas, oil, and other fuels, including industrial waste and non-renewable municipal waste.

The list was compiled by the International Energy Agency and refers to 2018—the most recent available data. The figures show total CO2 emissions for the year, where GT is an abbreviation for metric gigatons.

  1. China (10.06GT)
  2. United States (5.41GT)
  3. India (2.65GT)
  4. Russian Federation (1.71GT)
  5. Japan (1.16GT)
  6. Germany (0.75GT)
  7. Islamic Republic of Iran (0.72GT)
  8. South Korea (0.65GT)
  9. Saudi Arabia (0.62GT)
  10. Indonesia (0.61GT)
  11. Canada (0.56GT)
  12. Mexico (0.47GT)
  13. South Africa (0.46GT)
  14. Brazil (0.45GT)
  15. Turkey (0.42GT)
  16. Australia (0.42GT)
  17. United Kingdom (0.37GT)
  18. Poland (0.34GT)
  19. France (0.33GT)
  20. Italy (0.33GT)
  21. Kazakhstan (0.32GT)

Adjusting for population size, however, changes the rankings. The list below shows the top CO2 emitters when it comes to per capita emissions. T is an abbreviation for metric tons.

  1. Saudi Arabia (18.48T)
  2. Kazakhstan (17.60T)
  3. Australia (16.92T)
  4. United States (16.56T)
  5. Canada (15.32T)
  6. South Korea (12.89T)
  7. Russian Federation (11.74T)
  8. Japan (9.13T)
  9. Germany (9.12T)
  10. Poland (9.08T)
  11. Islamic Republic of Iran (8.82T)
  12. South Africa (8.12T)
  13. China (7.05T)
  14. United Kingdom (5.62T)
  15. Italy (5.56T)
  16. Turkey (5.21T)
  17. France (5.19T)
  18. Mexico (3.77T)
  19. Indonesia (2.30T)
  20. Brazil (2.19T)
  21. India (1.96T)

According to the nonprofit World Resources Institute, China, the United States and the European Union as a whole account for more than 41 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the bottom 100 countries only account for just under 4 percent of total global emissions.

"These steps will set America on a path of net-zero emissions economy by no later than 2050." During President Joe Biden’s remarks at the global summit on climate change Thursday, he said that he aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by the end of the decade.

— Newsweek (@Newsweek) April 22, 2021

But it should also be noted that the richest 1 percent of the world's population across countries—those who earn over $100,000 per year—were responsible for more than twice as much carbon dioxide emissions as the poorer half of the world between 1990 and 2015, according to a study published by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute.

The same study also found that the richest 10 percent of the global population—around 630 million people who earn more than $35,000 per year—were responsible for roughly 52 percent of global emissions during this time.

Joe Biden at White House climate summit
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks and participates in the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate from the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2021. JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

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