Bangladesh is a South Asian country that suffers the most due to climate change despite contributing only 0.56 percent of global emissions that affect our climate. According to the statistics, between 2000 and 2019, Bangladesh experienced economic losses worth $3.72 billion and suffered at least 185 extreme climate disasters like sea-level rise, floods, cyclones, droughts, etc, as a result of climate change. Not just Bangladesh, but countries like Madagascar, Philippines, Rwanda, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and many other poor and least responsible countries are among the worst affected. They are bearing the burden of those who are mostly to blame for the climate crisis. Now the question is, “Who is historically responsible for Climate Change?”. Let’s find it out.
Who are mostly to blame for Climate Change?
To answer, who is historically responsible for Climate Change, let’s go back to the past, to the Industrial Revolution – the transition from handcrafted items to the use of machinery. This revolution began in Great Britain between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, fueled by a new source of energy – the Fossil Fuel – which includes coal, petroleum, and natural gas. As these fossil fuels were very cheap and efficient compared to wood, Britain started to power textile mills, trains, ships, and all sorts of industrial machinery using fossil fuels.
Soon after, the heavy usage of fossil fuels extended throughout Europe, the United States, and other countries, causing massive changes in society and business. This increasing burning of fossil fuels started to increase the amounts of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. And as a result of these gasses, the earth’s temperature began to rise, resulting in human-induced climate change. But not every country released the same amounts of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Therefore, every country in the world has a different share of responsibility for Climate change.
Since 1850, with emissions of more than 509Gt CO2, the United States has led the way to have the largest share of cumulative CO2 emissions. This accounts for around 20.3 percent of the global total. China is in second place, accounting for 11.4 percent of total CO2 emissions, about 284.4Gt CO2. While China has had relatively low emissions throughout its history, its fast, coal-fired economic expansion since 2000 is the primary cause of its current situation.
Russia comes in third, accounting for 6.9 percent (172.5) of world total CO2 emissions, followed by Brazil (4.5 percent – 112.9) and Indonesia (4.1 percent – 102.5). However, Brazil and Indonesia are on this list due to deforestation emissions rather than fossil fuel burning. With 3.5 percent of global emissions, Germany is ranked sixth. However, due to the reforestation of formerly deforested areas, Germany now has negative CO2 emissions from deforestation. On the other hand, with greater CO2 emissions from cutting down trees, India ranked 7th on the list with 3.4% of the cumulative total emission. Then, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada close out the top 10 largest contributors to historical emissions with cumulative CO2 emissions of 3.0%, 2.7%, and 2.4%, respectively.
Therefore, you can see that the world’s wealthiest countries hold the lion’s share of responsibility for this man-made Climate Change. In fact, these countries are responsible for about 62.4% of cumulative CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Though the wealthiest countries might have initiated Climate Change in the first place, the fastest growing countries of today are also releasing vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere as they are using the same cheap fossil fuels as the richest back in the industrial revolution. Whether one is responsible or not, we must act immediately to save the world from this Climate Change. And if you are wondering where to start, here is something to start with “5 actions you can take to save the world from Climate change.”
Thumbnail Image: By The Organisation for World Peace, Climate Change In The 21st Century: Mitigating Greenhouse Gasses 1: duncan1890, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons 2: Tony Webster from San Francisco, California, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons 3: Photo by Chris LeBoutillier