Here’s something to keep in mind amid all that climate talk after the recent UN summit: history. When world leaders gather to discuss the climate change crisis, our focus often goes to China, which now produces 28% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. But well before China became the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter in 2005, the United States held that title for decades. Between 1960 and 2005, the U.S. had produced triple China’s share of greenhouse gases.
You can watch that story play out on the World Resources Institute’s new interactive map, which shows the growth of carbon dioxide emissions by country over the last 150 years. Consider, too, that the United States helped create the conditions for these other emissions-producing economies to explode. According to a Geophysical Research Letters study published in 2009, China’s exports to the United States alone accounted for 9% of its total emissions. Through outsourcing, the United States has also played an historical role in the economic development of some of the biggest emitters today.
And yet, unlike China, the United States has refused to support carbon pricing, a model that would force emitters to pay for the costs pollution imposes on the world. To watch the whole emissions narrative unfold over time, click here.