Addressing climate change through reducing CO2 and related emissions is an individual journey as well as an urban, rural, regional, and national journey for all levels of government.
Even though just three nations – China, the US, and India – produce more than half of the world’s total emissions, it is the responsibility of every nation’s leaders to do what they can to improve their respective corners of the world.
The big anthropogenic CO2 contributors are energy generation, manufacturing, and transportation, which collectively produce almost 80% of the 37 billion metric tons humans send into the atmosphere every year. Within this context, individual nations each have their own specific challenges to address – whether a continued over-reliance on electricity from coal and natural gas in the US, to the consequences of a vastly increased industrial base in China, to the legions of motorbikes and jeeps in much of the developed world.
How Can We Measure the True Challenge?
But significant progress in reducing emissions can be stymied by the reluctance or inability of national governments to grasp the enormity of the climate-change issue and develop strategies and programs to do something about it. So it’s not enough to simply urge all people and all nations to embark on serious emissions-reduction initiatives. There is also, in my opinion, a necessity to derive a measurement that shows us how relatively difficult it will be, region-by-region and nation-by-nation, to do so.
In light of this, I have developed what I call the Emissions Reduction Challenge (ERC) Index. The index matches up the amount of per capita (per-person) CO2 being emitted each year with the nation’s current momentum in developing its technology infrastructure, mitigated by its corruption level and income disparity. (I use the latter two factors because corrupt governments are not motivated to go along with a global movement to clean things up, and impoverished people in countries with high income disparity are motivated simply to survive rather than try to save the world.)
This may at first blush seem a little complex, but I think it’s an effective measure.
Diverse Nations Face Diverse Challenges
As with any analysis of emissions reduction, the Big Three of China, the United States, and India come leaping out of the data to dominate matters. But the differing natures of their societies present them with uniquely differing challenges.
So, by factoring in their current technology-development momentum, their levels of corruption, and their populations’ motivation to do something, we find the United States facing a magnitude half a magnitude smaller than that of India and almost a full magnitude smaller than that of China.
The US faces also faces less of a per-person challenge than Mexico and much of Central and South America, it still has by far the largest challenge overall in the Americas.
Turning to Africa, we see many nations on this continent scoring well in this measure, but only because they have woefully underdeveloped energy infrastructures. Their challenge is to create new and sustainable energy production, and find the funding to do so.
Other, more developed African nations – which still fall short of a reasonable standard of development – already face formidable overall challenges. Nigeria, for example, faces a greater overall challenge than the US in reducing its emissions, and Libya’s challenge is comparable to that of the US (despite its population of only 7 million people versus more than 235 million in the US).
Up to My Neck in Data
I am working to publish detailed data on the 142 countries I cover (and I summarize the rest into a Rest of the World category), and produce graphic representations of all this data. It’s much easier to see it charted out than stare at the walls of numbers my algorithms create.
For now, all I have are the walls of numbers. Below is a brief recap of the world’s regions by percentage of the world’s population, percentage of global emissions, then percentage of the overall global challenge facing them.
Again, this final percentage is based on my Emissions Reduction Challenge (ERC) index, which accounts for each nation’s ability to achieve significant change. It shows that even though the Americas countries produce more than 5X the emissions of African nations, the socioeconomic challenge facing Africa is almost twice that of the Americas region.
In similar fashion, Europe faces a relatively “easy” challenge, Asia faces a very large challenge commensurate with its population, and the Middle East faces a significant challenge even with a relatively small population.
|% of world’s population:||17.6%||12.4%||55.8%||10.1%||4.1%|
|% of world’s CO2 emissions:||3.6%||21.2%||52.5%||16.3%||6.4%|
|% of the global challenge to reduce emissions:||25.2%||13.0%||49.8%||5.4%||6.6%|
As always, I’m happy to discuss this with anyone at anytime. Thanks for reading.