US Ranked Most Responsible for Climate Change

US Ranked Most Responsible for Climate Change

The US bears more responsibility for climate change than any other country, according to a new analysis that also estimates emissions from America and China have caused nearly $2 trillion worth of damage globally each since 1990 in a 25-year period. Russia, India, and Brazil follow close behind with an additional combined cost of damages of around $1.5 trillion. So far, the countries responsible for the most emissions have avoided the brunt of the economic damage, while less developed countries are impacted the most.

The latest IPCC report warns that problems will worsen in Africa, where rising temperatures have resulted in catastrophic crop failures. Further, African countries could soon suffer from "reduced food production across crops, livestock and fisheries; increasing heat-related mortality; heat-related loss of labor productivity; and flooding from sea level rise.”

Carbon Brief: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?, October 4, 2021.

New York Times, November 12, 2021.

Source: Global Carbon Project·

Note: The rich, developed countries group is based on the United Nations’ Annex II definition. International transport is not counted as part of either group’s total emissions. The data reflects territory-based carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and cement, but does not include land-use and forestry. The graphic shows emissions from countries and territories.

CNN, November 3, 2021.

Why This Matters

The analysis citing the US as the world’s most significant climate offender comes amidst a growing campaign that calls for resource-rich, polluting countries to pay for the damages their emissions have and will continue to cause to the Global South. As explained by Anjal Prakash, a co-author of the latest IPCC report, the hardest-hit countries are forced to grapple with the worst of climate change while having fewer resources for education, healthcare, and other public services, amplifying the suffering as an effect. Unless resource-rich countries step up by cutting emissions and providing assistance to severely impacted countries, "it’s an unending situation,” according to Prakash.

Robin Hood: "This is Loss and Damage | Who Pays" narrated by Mark Strong, September 23, 2021.

DW: This is just how unfair climate change is, May 21, 2021.

Heavy Hitters & Huge Emitters

America is slipping in its climate rankings and according to another new report by Rhodium Group, the nation is on track to fall 'significantly short’ of its climate goals.

So far, the most offending countries have delayed action and are continuing on, business as usual. Instead of prompting the urgent, green transition necessary, the move away from Russian fossil fuels amidst the war in Ukraine has increased demand for foreign gas and coal in the US and EU. It’s even brought on a wave of new gas expansion projects. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is struggling to halt a multi-billion dollar plan for Arctic drilling, approved during the Trump Administration.

Meanwhile, China continues to burn millions of metric tons of coal each day to keep up with its massive energy demand and prevent blackouts. The country’s coal habit has made it an even bigger emitter than the US, though neither country shows signs of slowing down. Still, experts warn they must cut out oil and gas emissions by 2034 in order to halt the coming crisis.

Euronews: UN Secretary-General says the climate crisis is placing half of humanity in 'the danger zone,' June 14, 2022.

Democracy Now: Bill McKibben | Latest IPCC Climate Report Underscores "Fossil Fuel Is at the Root of Our Problems," April 7, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, March 18, 2022.

Our Eden: Your Bank is Funding Climate Change, November 13, 2021.