Carbon dioxide emissions: See how China, US and India emit the most – USA TODAY
Emissions of carbon dioxide – the gas most responsible for global warming – continued to rise in Earth’s atmosphere in 2022, federal scientists announced recently.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere comes from two primary sources: natural and human activities. Natural carbon dioxide comes from outgassing from the ocean, decomposing plants, wildfires and volcanoes.
Human activities from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which has caused the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere to rise to levels that cannot be explained by natural causes, scientists say.
CO2 is called a “greenhouse gas” because of its ability to trap solar radiation and keep it confined to the atmosphere.
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It is invisible, odorless and colorless yet is responsible for 63% of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Colorado.
Which countries emit the most carbon dioxide?
Three countries account for the lion’s share of global carbon dioxide emissions. In 2022, China was highest, at 32%, though that has begun to fall slightly. The United States was next with 14%, an increase of 1.5% over 2021.
India’s emissions continue to rise and now make up 8% of the global total. Together, the 27 nations of the European Union account for 8%.
A delicate balance
CO2 is also crucial to life on Earth because plants use sunlight and carbon dioxide to create energy through photosynthesis.
But it’s a delicate balance. Too little carbon dioxide and the Earth wouldn’t stay at a temperature suitable for life; too much and the temperature starts to rise.
In fact, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are similar to where they were during the mid-Pliocene epoch, about 4.3 million years ago, NOAA said. At that time, of course, all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was from natural sources.
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During that time, sea level was about 75 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra.