Earth’s super emitters of carbon dioxide have been revealed in a new NASA map showing how much greenhouse gases are being pumped out by more than 100 countries.
China and the US lead the list, followed by India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran, Japan and Germany.
The UK is not far behind some of these countries, along with the rest of Western Europe, Australia, Kazakhstan, much of North Africa, South Africa, Chile, Thailand and the Philippines.
Satellite measurements from NASA’s Earth-observing Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission helped put together the pilot project.
It estimates both how much carbon dioxide is emitted in each country, and how much is removed from the atmosphere by forests or other carbon-absorbing “sinks” within their borders.
Polluters: Earth’s super emitters of carbon dioxide have been revealed in a new NASA map showing how much greenhouse gases are being pumped out by more than 100 countries. China and the US lead the list, followed by India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Japan
The research offers a new perspective for scientists as it tracks both fossil fuel emissions and total carbon stock changes in ecosystems such as trees, shrubs and soils.
“NASA is focused on providing Earth science data that addresses real-world climate challenges — such as helping governments around the world measure the impact of their carbon mitigation efforts,” said Karen St. Germain, director from NASA’s Earth Science Division.
THE TOP 10 BIGGEST CARBON POLLUTERS
- United States
“This is an example of how NASA is developing and improving efforts to measure carbon emissions in a way that meets user needs.”
The international study used both data from the OCO-2 mission and a network of surface observations to estimate the rises and falls in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations between 2015 and 2020.
This allowed researchers to balance how much carbon dioxide countries emitted and removed over a five-year period using a so-called “top-down” method.
Traditionally, scientists have taken a ‘bottom-up’ approach estimate how much carbon dioxide countries release into the Earth’s atmosphere.
But this requires significant resources, expertise and knowledge, as it involves calculating the amount of CO2 emitted across all sectors of an economy, such as transportation and agriculture.
Bottom-up methods can also miss the full effects of specific activities, such as logging, because they are not fully known.
That’s why the researchers think their top-down approach could be particularly useful.
For example, the study includes data from more than 50 countries that have reported no emissions in the last 10 years.
The information also helps track carbon dioxide fluctuations associated with changes in land cover.
Emissions from deforestation alone make up a huge portion of total carbon production in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania, while the data shows that reforestation in other parts of the world has helped reduce carbon in the atmosphere.
“Our top-down estimates provide an independent estimate of these emissions and removals, so while they cannot replace the detailed process understanding of traditional bottom-up methods, we can check both approaches for consistency,” says study co-author Philippe Ciais of the Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement in France.
This graph shows how the researchers calculated CO2 emissions from activities such as fossil fuels and biomass burning, while also accounting for the removal of carbon from the atmosphere
The UK is not far behind some of these countries, along with the rest of Western Europe, Australia, Kazakhstan, much of North Africa, South Africa, Chile, Thailand and the Philippines (stock image)
WHERE IS THE EARTH’S CARBON STORED?
Amazon rainforest: 200 billion tons
Siberian permafrost: 950 billion tons
Arctic: 1,600 billion tons
Oceans: As many as 38,000 gigatons, according to World Ocean Review
These figures are estimates, but the actual values may be higher. In contrast, humans produce an estimated 36 billion tons of carbon annually.
The new research reveals a complex picture of how carbon moves through Earth’s land, ocean and atmosphere.
It also explains not only the direct human impact on greenhouse gases in certain countries, but also areas where humans have a minimal footprint and can therefore reduce global warming.
“National inventories are designed to track how management policies affect carbon emissions and removals,” said study co-author Noel Cressie, a professor at the University of Wollongong in Australia.
‘However, the atmosphere doesn’t care if CO2 is emitted from deforestation in the Amazon or wildfires in the Canadian Arctic.
‘Both processes will increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and stimulate climate change.
“Therefore, it is critical to monitor the carbon balance of unmanaged ecosystems and identify any changes in carbon uptake.”
Researchers hope to continue refining the data they’ve collected to better understand how individual countries’ emissions are changing.
“Sustained high-quality observations are critical to these top-down estimates,” said lead author Brendan Byrne, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
“Ongoing observations of OCO-2 and surface locations allow us to monitor how these emissions and removals change as the Paris Agreement is implemented.
“Future international missions that provide more comprehensive mapping of CO2 concentrations around the world will allow us to refine these top-down estimates and provide more accurate estimates of countries’ emissions and removals.”
The research has been published here.
THE PARIS AGREEMENT: A GLOBAL AGREEMENT TO LIMIT TEMPERATURE RISE THROUGH CO2 EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGETS
The Paris Agreement, first signed in 2015, is an international agreement to control and mitigate climate change.
It hopes to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2°C (3.6°F) “and continue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C (2.7°F).”
It seems that the more ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F) may be more important than ever, according to previous research claiming that 25 percent of the world experienced a significant increase in experience drier conditions.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change has four main goals related to reducing emissions:
1) A long-term goal to keep the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels
2) Aiming to limit the increase to 1.5°C, as this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change
3) Governments agreed that global emissions should peak as soon as possible, recognizing that this will take longer for developing countries
4) Then make rapid reductions in accordance with the best available science