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Charted: Global Energy Consumption by Source, and Carbon Emissions (1900-2021)

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Where does our energy come from, and how has this mix changed over the last 100 years?

These charts from Truman Du examine the complex relationship between energy production, consumption, and related carbon emissions using information from Our World in Data.

The World’s Energy Mix (1900-2021)

In the last 10 years, total global energy consumption has risen nearly 15%. Before that, between 2000 and 2010, it increased by nearly 25%.

And despite frequent headlines about green initiatives over the last few years, fossil fuels continue to account for the majority of total energy consumption.

This graphic shows the break up of the different sources of energy and how much they contribute to the total energy consumed in the world.

In 2021, 77% of global energy was sourced from coal, oil, and gas.

Even so, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro have gained traction since the year 2000. Hydropower was the biggest renewable energy source in 2021, accounting for 6.3% of total energy consumed.

A Fossil Fuel Heavy Mix

Taking a closer look at the breakdown of energy by source, another strong (if slightly counterintuitive) trend appears to be holding its own.

Coal has remained a key source of the world’s energy consumption since 1900. Despite its relative share decreasing over time, as of 2021, coal remains the second biggest energy source, accounting for 25% of the world’s energy needs. All figures below are in TWh (terrawatt-hours).

Global Energy Consumption19001950200020102021
Solar--3 TWh94 TWh2,702 TWh
Wind--93 TWh962 TWh4,872 TWh
Nuclear--7,323 TWh7,374 TWh7,031 TWh
Hydro47 TWh925 TWh7,826 TWh9,518 TWh11,183 TWh
Gas64 TWh2,092 TWh23,994 TWh31,589 TWh40,375 TWh
Oil181 TWh5,444 TWh42,881 TWh47,895 TWh51,170 TWh
Coal5,728 TWh12,603 TWh27,428 TWh41,996 TWh44,473 TWh
Total12,131 TWh28,564 TWh122,745 TWh152,966 TWh176,431 TWh

From its crucial role in the Industrial Revolution, to its relative cheapness and useful byproducts, coal isn’t close to being phased out anytime soon. In fact, it has seen a resurgence in powering India and China’s growing economies in the 21st century.

As fossil fuel use has increased in absolute terms, so have carbon emissions.

Carbon Emissions in 1900 vs. 2020

China, the U.S., India, Russia, and Japan are the top five emitters in the world, responsible for 60% of the world’s total emissions in 2020.

As these countries include the world’s largest economic powers, some believe emissions are a necessary byproduct of economic growth. Though there are exceptions, this seems to have held true on average, as studies show a 1% change in GDP is correlated with a 0.072 change in carbon dioxide emissions.

When looking at the chart of carbon emissions below, China’s journey of economic growth in the latter half of the 20th century exemplifies this.

This chart compares the biggest carbon emitters between 2020 and 1900.

China’s emissions increased dramatically, rising by six times from 1978 to 2018 alone, driven primarily by economic growth.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 50 biggest emitters in the world in 2020 versus 1900. All figures are in units of 100 million tons, and are rounded for simplicity.

RankCountry1900 EmissionsCountry2020 Emissions
1U.S.6.6China106.7
2U.K4.2U.S.47.1
3Germany3.3India24.4
4France1.3Russia15.8
5Poland0.6Japan10.3
6Belgium0.5Iran7.5
7Russia0.5Germany6.4
8Czechia0.3Saudi Arabia6.3
9Austria0.3South Korea6
10Canada0.2Indonesia5.9
11Japan0.2Canada5.4
12Netherlands0.1Brazil4.7
13Ukraine0.1South Africa4.5
14Italy0.1Turkey3.9
15India0.1Australia3.9
16Spain0.1Mexico3.6
17Slovakia0.1U.K.3.3
18Australia0.1Italy3
19Hungary0.1Poland3
20Sweden0.1Kazakhstan2.9
21Switzerland0.1France2.8
22Denmark0.1Taiwan2.7
23Kazakhstan0Malaysia2.7
24Norway0Thailand2.6
25Portugal0Vietnam2.5
26New Zealand0Pakistan2.3
27South Africa0Ukraine2.1
28Belarus0Egypt2.1
29Argentina0Iraq2.1
30Uzbekistan0Spain2.1
31Romania0Argentina1.6
32Indonesia0Algeria1.5
33Turkey0UAE1.5
34Mexico0Netherlands1.4
35Azerbaijan0Philippines1.4
36Chile0Nigeria1.3
37Moldova0Uzbekistan1.1
38Lithuania0Qatar1.1
39Estonia0Bangladesh0.9
40Turkmenistan0Colombia0.9
41Finland0Kuwait0.9
42Vietnam0Mongolia0.9
43Latvia0Czechia0.9
44Kyrgyzstan0Venezuela0.8
45Greece0Belgium0.8
46Serbia0Chile0.8
47Georgia0Turkmenistan0.8
48Tajikistan0Romania0.7
49Peru0Morocco0.6
50Bulgaria0Oman0.6
TotalWorld19.5World319.2

The data also highlights the shift in the global economy between developed and developing economies.

In the 1900s, the largest emitters were the U.S. and other industrialized nations. In the later data set, developing economies like India, Brazil, and Indonesia have moved up the list as more significant carbon emitters as well.

Exporting Emissions

The accounting for carbon emissions can change with international trade, depending on how emissions are counted and attributed.

Should emissions generated from a manufactured good be assigned to the country where the good was made, or to the place where the good was ultimately consumed? Adjusting emissions based on imports and exports can help us look at these differences.

This chart compares production-based emissions versus consumption-based emissions by country.

Richer economies that import lots of goods, like the U.S., UK, or Germany tend to have higher consumption-based emissions.

Meanwhile, for high-growth countries like China, India, Iran, and South Africa, the inverse is true: their production-based emissions are higher than their consumption-based emissions.

Cumulative Carbon Emissions

When taking into account emissions from the Industrial Revolution to 2020, nearly every continent has contributed large amounts of carbon emissions—but key leaders emerge.

Here is the full breakdown:

This chart shows cumulative carbon emissions by country since 1900.

According to the UN, the world will need to cut emissions by 32 Gt more than what countries have already promised in order to achieve the 1.5 °C target outlined in the Paris Agreement.

As you can see in this data, how or if this happens will likely be driven largely by the future of our energy sources and consumption.

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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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Energy

Visualizing Saudi Aramco’s Massive Oil Reserves

Saudi Aramco controls almost 259 billion barrels worth of oil and gas reserves.

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Visualizing Saudi Aramco’s Massive Oil Reserves

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.

Saudi Aramco controls 259 billion barrels worth of oil and gas reserves, which is unmatched by any other company globally. This is a key factor in the company’s massive $1.8 trillion valuation.

To illustrate that, this chart compares the proved reserves of major oil companies as of 2022. Data was compiled by Statista from various company reports.

Crown Jewel

Saudi Aramco is the national oil company of Saudi Arabia. As of 2024, it is the sixth-largest company in the world by market capitalization.

Its oil reserves are over four times bigger than the reserves of all the other six companies on our list combined.

CompanyProved reserves (billion barrels of oil equivalent)
Saudi Aramco258.8
ExxonMobil17.7
Chevron11.2
Total Energies10.2
Shell9.6
BP7.2
Eni6.6

Behind Saudi Aramco, American company ExxonMobil comes in second with 17.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent, followed by another American company, Chevron, with 11.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

Saudi Aramco produces 9 million barrels of oil a day, more than any other firm and nearly a tenth of the world’s total.

In addition, the state-run oil giant is the world’s most profitable company, generating $722 billion in profits between 2016 and 2023.

Saudi Aramco is also expected to play a big part in Saudi Arabia’s plans to diversify its economy and reduce oil dependence. Recently, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman confirmed that the kingdom is in talks to sell a 1% stake in the state oil giant, which could help fund the country’s projects in clean energy and technology.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out this graphic, which ranks oil production by country.

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