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Visualizing the World’s Space Debris by Country Responsible



Every Space Debris orbiting the Earth

Space Debris: The Earth’s Orbiting Threat

Earlier in July, a suspicious object washed up on a remote beach in Western Australia. This chunk of golden metal was reported to be a piece of space debris that found its way back to Earth.

And it is not the only one. Today, thousands of defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, metal shards from collisions, and other remnants of human space exploration are orbiting the Earth at breakneck speeds.

In this graphic, Preyash Shah uses tracking data from the, maintained by the U.S. Space Force, to help visualize just how much debris is currently orbiting the Earth, while identifying the biggest contributors of this celestial clutter.

Note: Many spent rocket bodies are still actively tracked and controlled by their launch authorities, and the source tracks these separately. Space debris includes spent rocket bodies that are defunct and uncontrolled.

Ranked: Countries Responsible for the Most Space Debris

According to the data, there are roughly 14,000 small, medium, and large debris objects floating about in low Earth orbit as of May 2023. And this is not counting the millions of tiny debris fragments that are too small to be tracked.

Although space debris is a global problem, certain countries have played a larger role in contributing to the clutter. In the 1950s, the U.S. and Russia (formerly USSR) led the space race with the highest number of launched space objects. In the 1970s, they were joined by China, and objects from all three countries account for the vast majority of today’s space debris:

Space Debris Contributor# of Space Debris
🇷🇺 Russia (including USSR)4,521
🇺🇸 United States4,317
🇨🇳 China4,137
🇫🇷 France370
🇮🇳 India62
🇯🇵 Japan48
🇨🇳 China / 🇧🇷 Brazil25
🇪🇺 European Space Agency22
🇨🇦 Canada5
🇦🇷 Argentina1
🇩🇪 Germany1

*China-Brazil space debris originates from various cooperational space programs over the years

The debris count of Russia—including former launches by the Soviet Union—currently stands at 4,521. But the U.S. and China are not far behind with more than 4,000 each. And though many of these are accumulated over time, thousands of debris are created in single catastrophic moments.

China’s anti-satellite test in 2007 destroyed its own weather satellite, creating 3,500 space debris pieces. Likewise, the 2009 collision between inactive Russian satellite Cosmos-2251 and operational U.S. communications satellite Iridium 33 created over 2,000 pieces of debris.

Moving at high speeds, even tiny fragments of debris can cause catastrophic collisions. And with companies like SpaceX launching expansive satellite networks, these numbers are bound to grow.

Clearer Skies on the Horizon?

Addressing the space debris issue requires a multi-faceted approach involving international cooperation, advanced technology, and responsible space practices.

Scientists and engineers are actively exploring methods to clean up debris, including concepts like space-based debris removal systems and novel deorbiting techniques.

Some space agencies like the European Space Agency are also making plans to ensure their space technology is designed with safe disposal plans to significantly reduce the accumulation of space junk.

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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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Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World

Comparing average Scope 1 emission intensities by sector according to an analysis done by S&P Global Inc.



Ranked: The Most Carbon-Intensive Sectors in the World

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on real assets and resource megatrends each week.

Ever wonder which sectors contribute the most to CO2 emissions around the world?

In this graphic, we explore the answers to that question by comparing average Scope 1 emission intensities by sector, according to an analysis done by S&P Global Inc.

Defining Scope 1 Emissions

Before diving into the data, it may be useful to understand what Scope 1 emissions entail.

Scope 1 emissions are direct greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by a company, such as their facilities and vehicles.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Scope 1 emissions can do a good job of highlighting a company’s environmental footprint because they represent the direct emissions related to manufacturing or creating a company’s products, whether they are tangible goods, digital software, or services.

Scope 2 and 3 emissions, on the other hand, encompass the indirect emissions associated with a company’s activities, including those from a company’s purchased electricity, leased assets, or investments.

Ranking the Carbon Giants

According to S&P Global’s analysis of 2019-2020 average emissions intensity by sector, utilities is the most carbon-intensive sector in the world, emitting a staggering 2,634 tonnes of CO2 per $1 million of revenue.

Materials and energy sectors follow behind, with 918 tonnes and 571 tonnes of CO2 emitted, respectively.

SectorSector ExplanationScope 1 CO2 emissions per $1M of revenue, 2019-2020
UtilitiesElectric, gas, and water utilities and independent producers2,634 tonnes
MaterialsChemicals, construction materials, packaging, metals, and mining918 tonnes
EnergyOil and gas exploration/production and energy equipment571 tonnes
IndustrialsCapital goods, commercial services, and transportation194 tonnes
Consumer staplesFood, household goods, and personal products90 tonnes
Consumer discretionaryAutomobiles, consumer durables, apparel, and retailing33 tonnes
Real estateReal estate and real estate management31 tonnes
Information technologySoftware, technology hardware, and semiconductors24 tonnes
FinancialsBanks, insurance, and diversified financials19 tonnes
Communication servicesTelecommunication, media, and entertainment9 tonnes
Health careHealth care equipment, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and life sciences7 tonnes

S&P Global also reveals some interesting insights when it comes to various industries within the materials sector, including:

  • Cement manufacturing exhibits an extremely high level of Scope 1 emissions, emitting more than double the emissions from the utilities sector (5,415 tonnes of CO2 per $1M of revenue)
  • Aluminum and steel production are also quite emission-intensive, emitting 1,421 and 1,390 tonnes respectively in 2019-2020
  • Relatively lower-emission materials such as gold, glass, metals and paper products bring down the average emissions of the materials sector

Given these trends, a closer look at emission-intensive industries and sectors is necessary for our urgent need to decarbonize the global economy.

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