A New Take on the World's Carbon Footprint (Graphic)

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Usually when talking about the world's worst emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States are inevitably placed at the top the list -- but such measures typically account for quantity alone. Sure, reducing carbon output among these leading nations would make the biggest impact on lessening emissions as a whole, but if we apply a new perspective on the data it paints an entirely different picture -- and reveals plenty of new opportunities to cut the carbon. The graph above compares emissions per nation on the left, to per capita emissions on the right -- putting the shoe on the other foot, so to speak.Quite often, discussions about areas in which to reduce the world's carbon footprint take aim at the world's largest producing countries, with smaller and developing nations seeming to place blame for the impacts of global warming elsewhere, but even they could use some improvement, too, in many cases. I'm looking at you, Bahrain!

This per capita model on the right, however, points out places where individuals of each country could have the biggest impact on reducing their overall emissions. According to the graphic above, residents of small island nations and territories, like the Virgin Islands, are frequently responsible for a larger than average personal carbon footprint, even if their homeland produces relatively little of the stuff.

A report from Miller-McCune offers insight into the compelling graphic:

Developing nations have contended that industrialized countries caused climate change and ought to bear the brunt of CO2 regulation.

The West points at exponential growth in China and India as a reason that regulation of carbon emissions must apply across the board. For atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to stabilize, this chart clearly shows, the world's major emitters -- China, the U.S., India, Japan, Russia and the European Union, among others -- will have to reduce their carbon footprints. At the same time, it's clear there is plenty of room for other, smaller countries to reduce their per capita contributions to a problem that threatens all.

Certainly, the graphic on the right changes things around quite a bit -- China, for example, is hardly a speck -- but it's important, nevertheless, to keep things in perspective. In the cases of those overall largest producers of greenhouse gases, carbon emissions are a systemic issue requiring not only individual actions to reduce, but a nationally concerted effort.

Still, gaining new perspective on a serious problem is a great way to inspire novel solutions. Call me an optimist, but perhaps we'll see Gibraltar and Qatar make a run for the title of world's highest percentage per capita drop in carbon emissions as a result.

This graphic was created by Stanford Kay Studios and is used with the author's permission. It was first published in Miller-McCune Magazine. Copyright Stanford Kay 2010.
More on Eye-Opening Graphic and Maps
New Data Shows China & United States' Carbon Emissions Still Way Higher Than Everyone Else's
Top 10 Nations With Clean Power - Hydropower, Nuclear or Small Populations Figure Heavily
The True Size and Importance of Africa (Map)
The True Size of Africa Continued: The Mercator Wars
What if a Country's Population Determined Its Size?

Tags: Carbon Emissions