Home > Environment > The United States and the World – On Greenhouse Gases

The United States and the World – On Greenhouse Gases


The United States emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as 69 other countries – 300 million people emitting the same as 1.5 billion. Since the U.S. uses about 20% of the world’s total energy consumption, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. But, it brings to light a big problem on the horizon. As developing countries continue to increase their energy use – electrifying their homes and businesses, travelling more in newly purchased cars, and producing more goods – is it possible for them to increase their standard of living without a dramatic increase in energy consumption?

Probably not.

What does this mean for the world’s energy use?

Today, the average person in the United States uses about 330 million BTUs (british thermal units) of energy each year. The world’s average is just 75 million. If the world increased its energy use to the current US level, the world’s total annual energy use would more than quadruple –  from its current 500 to more than 2,200 Quadrillion BTUs (this assumes that the world’s population does not increase.

The same story goes for the United States versus other countries on its environmental impacts from energy use. The United States uses more energy per capita and it also emits more carbon dioxide than any other country (per capita – China emits more greenhouse gases in total, but they have a much larger population). It is reasonable to say that an increase in energy use would in an increase in greenhouse emissions from these countries.

To get an idea of the scale, I took a look at a new map published on the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) website. This map shows what the US would look like if you redrew the state boundaries based on the greenhouse gas emissions of other countries. According to the NRDC, you could fit the emissions 16 countries + the entire African continent (which, if my counting skills are on-par today, includes 53 countries) into the United State’s footprint.

These countries includes the Philipines, Sweden, France, Morocco, Israel, Thailand, Argentina, India (filling Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi), Brazil, Africa (with its 53 countries), the United Kingdom, Germany, Jordan, Ireland, Malaysia, Norway, and Ecuador.

All told – this map shows that the 300 million people in the United States emit the same amount of carbon dioxide as the 1.5 billion people living in these 69 countries.

As the world continues to electrify its homes, put new cars on the road, and produce more goods in industrial facilities I wonder how the world will deal with the increase in greenhouse gas emissions….

Thanks to The Daily Wogan for introducing me to this NRDC chart.

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  1. January 23, 2011 at 4:00 pm

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