10 Countries That Emit The Most Pollution
Between greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide emissions, we have done quite the number on our wondrous planet; and while we’ve all had a hand in polluting our own world, there are certain countries that play a bigger part than others. To educate, inform, and maybe terrify our readers, we’re pointing fingers at the 10 countries with the highest pollution emission.
China being at number 1 is probably not a huge surprise, but it’s still shocking to know that nearly 30% of the entirety of the world’s CO2 emissions, or twice that of the United States, comes from this country. With a population of over 1.3 billion people and cities almost completely covered in a hazardous smog, China is constantly facing an environmental crisis; so much so that it’s believed only 1% of the country’s city population is breathing air considered safe by European Union standards. A reliance on coal burning for heat, an increase in industrial plant usage, and unfortunate weather patterns that do not allow for the escape of pollution have made parts of the country dangerous to live in.
Making up about 15% of the world’s total CO2 emissions, the United States produces over an approximate 5 million kt of CO2 a year. In 2014, the American Lung Association reported that around half of the United States’ 300+ million population was living in areas of dangerously high air pollution levels. Beyond just C02 emissions, warmer temperatures are causing an increase in ozone levels in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas. What’s causing the increase in air pollution in the states? Everything from the over use of fossil fuels to oil spills to pesticides have all played a part in crippling the country’s environment.
Approximately 6% of the world’s CO2 emissions comes from India, but it also has one of the lowest emission per capita numbers due to its larger population of over 1.2 billion people. Regardless, the country faces an ecological crisis due to the burning of fossil fuels, more specifically diesel, from vehicles and factories. It’s a small role in the big picture, but Hindu cremation practices are also a hindrance to the environment, as the public burning of a deceased person releases carbon dioxide and mercury. Families also utilize cow manure and other agricultural waste as cooking fuel, meaning each household practicing these methods are contributing to the country’s overall pollution.
5% of the world’s CO2 emissions comes from Russia, and when you get down to the nitty gritty of how the government once viewed pollution, it’s a surprise that level isn’t much higher. At one time, Russian government officials believed that concern and regulation over pollutants were not worth considering if it meant a slow down of economic advancement. By the 1990’s, approximately 40% of Russian territory felt the effects of this mindset and was under moderately high environmental stress. Russia still faces inefficient energy usage and emission from fossil fuel use, though the Ministry of Fuels and Energy reports that carbon emission can be cut by 25% through upgraded equipment.
The air quality in Japan has certainly taken some big hits throughout history, from Hiroshima to Fukushima, but a portion of the country’s problem with pollutants comes from its own practices. Though Japan has some of the strictest regulations when it comes to sulfur dioxide and nitrogen emissions, the country houses 70% of the world’s waste incinerators. With the incineration of waste, dioxins are emitted into the air, increasing the risks of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. An additional source that attributes to urban pollution includes Japan’s use of nuclear energy, though the emission of greenhouse gases are generally smaller than common practices like coal burning. Despite the use of nuclear energy, Japan still accounts for 4% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
It may be hard to refrain from making a Volkswagen joke about now, but truth be told, Germany’s pollution problems stem a bit beyond car manufacturing – though it should be said that elevated diesel pollution has been observed, which has played a role in the countries 3% contribution to the world's pollution problem. One city in particular, Stuttgart, experiences spikes in nitrogen dioxide pollution that brings the annual level to over double what’s considered an acceptable threshold. As with much of the rest of the world, Germany’s CO2 contribution stems from fossil fuel consumption and waste emission, though the country has been seeing slight drops in CO2 levels, with a 4.3% drop of the countries total pollutants from 2013 to 2014.
Producing almost 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, South Korea definitely has environmental issues of its own it needs to square away. A portion of South Korea’s overall air pollution does come from China in the form of arsenic carrying dust, but that’s not to say it’s innocent. Coal-firing plants in the country are a major cause to the elevated carbon dioxide levels and creation of the lung damaging ultrafine dust. In Seoul specifically, residents are advised to have protective masks on hand should a desert dust blow in and react with nitrogen and sulfur oxides emitted from power plants to form ultrafine dust.
Everybody loves Canada, right? Well, maybe not Mother Nature, so long as the country continues on its path of environmental destruction. Like Saudi Arabia, Canada’s hand in CO2 emissions may seem small at 1.5% of the world’s total, but the 550,000 kt is an emission per capita of 15.7% considering the 35 million people it houses. According to Canada’s own environmental conscious website, Environment Canada, major factors in the country’s pollution output include an increase in localized industry and seemingly harmless things like road salt and chemicals used in dry cleaning clothing. In regards to prevention, Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory offers a range of resources to avert further damage to the environment.
With a population nearing 250 million people, a heavy intake of electronic waste, and the routine burning of crops for the production of pulp, palm oil, and paper, Indonesia has quite the hand in the world’s emission of pollutants. In regards to CO2 pollution alone, Indonesia accounts for 1.4% of total emissions at 510,000 kt emitted on an annual average. Things are so bad in Indonesia that it is known for being home of two of the world’s most polluted areas - Kalimantan and Citarum River Basin. The persistence and hazard of the polluted haze from the frequent fires has even forced schools to close and infants to be evacuated from Indonesian cities.
Saudi Arabia makes up a measly 1.3% of the world’s overall CO2 emissions, but it’s a surprising number considering the comparatively smaller population of just under 29 million. As with most countries, the burning of fossil fuels adds a great deal of pollution in the form of CO2, but there’s more to Saudi Arabia’s environmental pollution than that. The country’s production of over 50 million tonnes of cement in 2013 – a drastic jump from 26 million tonnes in 2005 – as well as being one of the world’s largest petroleum producers has played a significant part in Saudi Arabia’s role in world pollution emissions.