We need to talk about CO2 Emissions Per Capita

Seethal Jayasankar
4 min readAug 12, 2021


And how some countries may have significantly higher responsibility than others

The other day, I read an article about Climate change that talked about the countries emitting enormous amounts of Carbon dioxide.

The list included China, India, Russia, and few others (including developed countries).

Something about the article didn’t feel right. It felt incomplete.

Having lived in India for 24 years and in the US for the past six years, I have seen a stark difference in people’s quality of life in each country.

“Minimalism” or “Reduced waste” wasn’t just fashionable terms in developing countries like India. We had to limit our resources and conserve energy because that was the only way we could survive.

We lived in cities where we had restricted timings to receive water (usually 2–3 hours each day), had 12–13 hour power outages during peak summer (temperatures of 110–120F), and didn’t have the luxury to own 2–3 cars per family.

Owning even a single vehicle per home was a luxury.

But when I came to the US almost six years back, I saw an entirely different world.

Even the middle class lived better lives than most higher-middle-class in developing countries.

Most homes in the US had swimming pools, enormous garages for their cars, big houses, backyards, and infinite resources in grocery stores.

I did see a set of new and different problems, but it was way different than what I had seen back home.

So, it was difficult for me to understand how people in most developing countries were still being blamed for emissions? Most people lived on a bare minimum.

This difference in my observations led me to research CO2 Emissions per capita (tons), and the results I found were astounding (and explained a lot).

Here’s the data


#1 Highest CO2 Emissions Per Capita (Tons):

Table prepared by Author but taken from sources cited above

Australia ranked 11th, and the US ranked 16th in the list.

Something important to note here is that while many conversations about Climate change also revolve around “blaming” the US, some of the significant contributors, such as Qatar, Montenegro, Kuwait, Canada, etc., are not held as much accountable (in social media conversations).

I might need to do more research to understand why.

#2 Countries with Major population:

Table prepared by Author but taken from sources cited above

Pakistan had a CO2 Emissions Per Capita (Tons) value of just 0.87 while Qatar topped at 37.29.

While conversations about reducing emissions in developing countries are crucial, they may not have any real effects on the Global scale unless countries such as Qatar, Montenegro, or any of the top per capita emitters really work towards sustainability or at least help the developing countries with technologies (or other solutions).

#3 Least CO2 Emissions Per Capita:

Table prepared by Author but taken from sources cited above


An important point to note here is that the list may not consider the CO2 emissions due to export and trading.

For example: Say Canada Imports specific resources that are produced in Indonesia. The emissions for making the product may still be accounted on Indonesia rather than Canada who is consuming the resource.

While this might be a complicated data, it is still a significant factor that must be accounted for.

Hopefully, there will be better, accurate data down the line.


This article has no intention of blaming specific countries but talking about high-emitting countries without mentioning the per capita emissions isn’t right.

We all know that we cannot tackle Climate change by blaming each other. We will need to work together and understand each other’s perspectives.

It’s unfair to ask a struggling individual in Pakistan or India to be Sustainable while having a giant luxurious pool in your backyard.

The climate message won’t and shouldn’t be the same for every individual in every country. Some incredibly privileged (including the ones in developing countries) have a much higher responsibility than others, and it’s a reality we must accept to tackle the problem at hand.

If we don’t, we will all remain petrified by the numbers, and none of us will take the required actions.

Another side-note: I am neither a climate scientist nor an expert on environmental statistics. I have a lot more reading to do to gain more knowledge about the complications of tackling Climate change.

Please feel free to share your thoughts. I would love to learn more.

Thanks for Reading.

Check out my YouTube channel for inspiring videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBfUxVSxC0koxGSkwzVRYzQ