What the World's Carbon Emissions Look Like

Who's afraid of China and India?


This map, courtesy of Ezra Klein's Wikipedia search, shows carbon emissions per capita by country.

If the countries in the deep red don't put a price on carbon, he notes, developing countries will reply that it's unfair for the us to get rich off cheap energy and say nobody else can do the same.

That sounds right. But to me, the most alarming thing about this graph isn't what's red, but rather what isn't red yet. China and India are home to about 2.5 billion people. That's equal to the population of the largest deep red nations -- United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Australia -- times seven.

In 2006, China and India ranked 96th and 139th in emissions per capita, just behind Barbados and Tonga, respectively. As they continue to undergo rapid economic growth, they'll climb the rankings precipitously. Even with new technologies that mitigate carbon intensity of energy resources, richer nations have richer consumers who consume more stuff. This map is going to get a lot redder, and the planet is going to suffer the consequences.

Pricing carbon isn't just about getting consumers and producers to feel the pinch. It's also about creating economic incentives for businesses to find and propagate technologies that pinch less -- that produce cheap, abundant energy that isn't soaked with negative externalities for the planet.