Climate Change by The Numbers

By George P. Nassos

Climate change continues to be a very important environmental issue that is discussed by scientists, the media, and others. What you learn about climate change depends on the source of information. There are books and articles written by reputable people who deny climate change is real and even use data that satisfy their position. And of course, there is the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) that has shown how climate change is progressing in the wrong direction and has numbers to prove it. Being that I am more of a numbers guy, let me explain my view on climate change with emphasis on what is being done and who is doing what is mitigate the problem.

We all seem to know that the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other Green House Gases (GHG) are China and the United States. Of the total GHG emitted into the atmosphere, the U.S. is responsible for twice as much as China., but China is currently the biggest polluter. This is the result of China overtaking the U.S. in 2006 as the largest CO2 emitter. In 2019, China emitted 27% of GHG while the U.S. was responsible for only 11%.

Germanwatch, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Bonn, Germany, was formed in 1991 to influence public policy on trade, the environment, and relations between countries in the industrialized north and underdeveloped south. In 2005, it reported for the first time the results of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) for 63 countries and the EU which account for over 90% of the global GHG emissions. The evaluation of the country’s performance is based on four metrics with ratings: 1) GHG emissions (40%), 2) renewable energy (20%), 3) energy use (20%), and 4) climate policy (20%).
The GHG emissions metric is based on emissions currently being emitted, past trend, emissions per capita, and target to meet the 2030 goal. The renewable energy metric is based on its share of the total energy produced by the country and its target to meet the 2030 goal. The energy metric considers current consumption, past trends, and its 2030 target. The climate policy metric considers the country’s national and international policies.

Based on the four metrics CCPI has a current ranking of 4-Denmark, 5-Estonia and 6-Philippines. CCPI feels that no country is worthy of being ranked 1, 2, or 3. Out of a maximum of 100, Denmark earned a score of 75.59. So how are the two biggest polluters doing in mitigating climate change? China is ranked 51 with a score of 45.56 and the U.S. is ranked 57 with a score of 42.79. Surprisingly, India is ranked 7 with a score of 70.25, actually the fourth highest country ranking. These numbers give you an idea as to which countries are doing the most to fight climate change. While China is the world’s biggest emitter of CO2, it is doing as much as it can to reduce its emissions. It just brought online the world’s largest solar farm which covers about 33,000 acres and generates 3.5 GW of electricity. China now operates the three largest solar farms in the world.

With transportation being one of the biggest emitters of CO2, what else is being done in China? Today there are over 500,000 electric buses in the world and over 95% are in China. They expect to have over 600,000 electric buses by the end of next year. Why doesn’t the U.S. have more electric buses? Range should not be a problem since routes are well known and charging stations can be located accordingly. Just a side note, when I was growing up all the public transportation was electric buses and electric streetcars. However, they weren’t battery operated but rather attached to power lines above the bus or streetcar route.

In 2022, China accounted for about 33% of the global emissions while the U.S. had the second largest at 12.5%, and India was third with about 7%. Although China emits about two and a half times as much GHG, it has about four times the population. Despite the large number of CO2 reduction projects being implemented by China, it is just not enough. China continues to increase its contribution to global GHG emissions every year. Hopefully, they will soon start showing a decrease in their contribution to global GHG emissions.

After all this, a big concern that we should have is that the U.S. is number 57 on the CCPI ranking of the major GHG emitters. We are number 57 out of 67. We should be doing much more.