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Animated Chart: The World’s Top 15 Carbon Emitters (1850-2022)



The World’s Top 15 Carbon Emitters (1850-2022)

Carbon emissions worldwide have shifted over the past centuries. However, what remains consistent is that the biggest economies have been the major emitters since the 19th century.

This chart by James Eagle uses data from Our World in Data to show the 15 largest carbon dioxide (CO₂) emitters between 1850 and 2022.

U.S. the Top Emitter for Over 100 Years

As the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution, the United Kingdom spent most of the 19th century at the top of the carbon emissions ranking.

Rank - 1850Emitter CO2 (million tonnes)
1 🇬🇧 United Kingdom122.4
2🇺🇸 United States19.8
3🇫🇷 France19.6
4🇩🇪 Germany15.1
5🇧🇪 Belgium9.3
6🇵🇱 Poland3.2

In 1888, however, the United States surpassed the UK to become the largest emitter of carbon. The American Civil War was over, and the country saw significant infrastructure expansion while focusing on settling the West.

Interestingly, America’s CO₂ emissions back then were small compared to today’s: for example, California’s current emissions are more than the entire country’s in 1888.

Throughout the first five decades of the 20th century, the U.S., UK, and Germany dominated the top of the rankings.

In the 1950s, with the increase in merchant traffic, the shipping sector became one of the major contributors to carbon emissions. During the same period, with the expansion of the Soviet Union, Russia surpassed Germany to become the second-largest carbon emitter. China also rose to occupy the fourth place.

China Tops CO₂ Emissions Since 2006

In the 1990s, China saw carbon emissions soar due to industrial growth, while the Middle East saw them rise due to strong global oil demand.

In 2006, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter. The aviation sector also became one of the top 15 emitters in the same decade.

Rank - 2022EmitterCO2 (million tonnes)
1🇨🇳 China11,396.8
2🇺🇸 United States5,057.3
3🇮🇳 India2,829.6
4🌍 Middle East2,677.6
5🇷🇺 Russia1,652.2
6🇯🇵 Japan1,053.8
7🇮🇷 Iran690.6
8🇩🇪 Germany665.6
9🚢 Shipping624.5
10🇨🇦 Canada547.9
11🇲🇽 Mexico512.0
12✈️ Aviation424.9
13🇮🇹 Italy338.1
14🇵🇱 Poland323.1
15🇬🇧 United Kingdom318.7

Currently, the volume of Chinese carbon emissions is more than double that of the U.S. Historically, however, the U.S. has emitted more CO₂ in cumulative terms.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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How People Get Around in America, Europe, and Asia

Examining how people get around using cars, public transit, and walking or biking, and the regional differences in usage.



A chart with the popularity of different transportation types in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, calculated by modal share.

How People Get Around in America, Europe, and Asia

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

This chart highlights the popularity of different transportation types in the Americas, Europe, and Asia, calculated by modal share.

Data for this article and visualization is sourced from ‘The ABC of Mobility’, a research paper by Rafael Prieto-Curiel (Complexity Science Hub) and Juan P. Ospina (EAFIT University), accessed through ScienceDirect.

The authors gathered their modal share data through travel surveys, which focused on the primary mode of transportation a person employs for each weekday trip. Information from 800 cities across 61 countries was collected for this study.

North American Car Culture Contrasts with the Rest of the World

In the U.S. and Canada, people heavily rely on cars to get around, no matter the size of the city. There are a few exceptions of course, such as New York, Toronto, and smaller college towns across the United States.

Region🚗 Cars🚌 Public Transport🚶 Walking/Biking
North America*92%5%4%
Central America23%42%35%
South America29%40%31%
Northern Europe48%29%24%
Western Europe43%24%34%
Southern Europe50%24%25%
Eastern Europe35%40%25%
Southeastern Asia44%43%13%
Western Asia43%28%29%
Southern Asia22%39%39%
Eastern Asia19%46%35%

Note: *Excluding Mexico. Percentages are rounded.

As a result, North America’s share of public transport and active mobility (walking and biking) is the lowest amongst all surveyed regions by a significant amount.

On the other hand, public transport reigns supreme in South and Central America as well as Southern and Eastern Asia. It ties with cars in Southeastern Asia, and is eclipsed by cars in Western Asia.

As outlined in the paper, Europe sees more city-level differences in transport popularity.

For example, Utrecht, Netherlands prefers walking and biking. People in Paris and London like using their extensive transit systems. And in Manchester and Rome, roughly two out of three journeys are by car.

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