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Africa’s environmental troublemakers: who emits the most carbon?

Alright, this one should not have been that hard. South Africa is far and away the leader in carbon dioxide emissions for the continent of Africa. Its 499,016 Kilotons is more than double than than of Egypt (216,136 Kilotons). Both pale in comparison to the earth destroying output of China (7.7 million) and the US (5.3 million).

The numbers are all big and a bit deceptive. The US has roughly 10 times as many people as Kenya. So how do these numbers break down when taking population into account. Here is a quick breakdown:

Kenya 3.2 Kilotons per 10,000 people
Nigeria 4.6 Kilotons per 10,000 people
China 53.6 Kilotons per 10,000 people
South Africa 101.84 Kilotons per 10,000 people
US 173.8 Kilotons per 10,000 people

The UN supported International Panel on Climate Change recently warned about the costs associated with unabated growth of global carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the big time emission offenders watered down the final report. David Wasdell of the European Commission’s Global System Dynamics and Policy network issued a critique of the political wrangling behind the Summary for Policymakers reports.

Greatest pressure to establish grounds for the highest possible budget came from those countries whose national economy, political power and social stability depend on sustaining the asset value and production revenue derived from exploitation of their resources of fossil energy. Additional pressure was applied to the political agents by those vested interests whose sustained profitability was based on the extraction, refining, marketing and use of fossil energy as the ground of the global economy.

What should be done is up for debate. What is unquestionable is the fact that something must change. As the data shows, the US is one of the countries that need to take the lead and start doing the right thing.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]