Friday, October 21, 2011

Total Carbon Emissions

My Global Climate Change course had their second part of their project due on Thursday.  Each person had to tell the class how their assigned country contributed to climate change.  The first part of the project they told me about how the culture of their region relates to the climate of their region, so we were building from there.  They answered the following questions in a paper, and then during a class discussion that Dr. Wagner and I lead, we discussed the differences between all of these countries.  

·         How is this region contributing to climate change through emission of greenhouse gases? 
·         Where does this region get its fuel? 
·         How does this affect the region’s interdependence on other regions and its economy? 
·         How is this region sequestering greenhouse gases? 
Here are the countries that the students represent:
United States-- actually, I play the role of the US in the class so the students can fulfill their global diversity requirement.  
Developed countries:  Canada, Australia, Japan
European Union:  France, Germany, UK, Denmark (includes Greenland)
Large Asian Countries:  China, India, Russia
Latin America:  Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Chile
Middle East:  Iran and Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
Coastal South Asia:  Indonesia, Maldives, Bangladesh, Thailand
East Africa:  Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania
West Africa:  Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone

In preparation for our discussion, Dr. Wagner found a great source for emission data, the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center.  I was able to take data from this page, throw it into Excel, and make the following graphs, which are just loaded with interesting information.
Notice that China recently shot right by the U.S. and is now the number one emitter as a country.  If you look with a cumulative perspective, though, think of how much responsibility the U.S. has for climate change since the dawn of the industrial revolution.  The area under the U.S. blue line is much greater than the area under China's line.  In fact, the U.S. has contributed three times the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere than China and ten times that of India.  

Even though the top graph shows that China is currently our biggest threat to continued global warming, China has over four times the number of people we do.  On a per capita (per person) basis, the U.S. citizens are personally much more responsible for global climate change.  In fact, from the per capita perspective, Australia is the worst of the countries we covered, but a few other small countries were even worse than them.
These are the countries we use for projects in my course, so there are a few worse than Australia not listed here.  The data for this was found here
In three weeks, my students will be telling me how their countries are currently impacted by climate change, and how they are forecasted to be impacted by climate change.  I'm excited for them to see how some of the smallest contributors to the problem, are the people most at risk of climate change impacts. 

Thanks to my students for a great discussion and well-researched answers to all of my questions!