Fossil fuel emissions, 2001-2012 mean, grams of carbon dioxide

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Mapping fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions is a lot like mapping population density, because the source of this type of greenhouse gas is caused by human activity and infrastructure. Electricity, heating, industry and transportation all require the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil or gas, so it’s no surprise that the northern hemisphere, home to almost 90 percent of the world’s population, is where the majority of atmospheric carbon dioxide originates.

Data from the Earth System Research Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the eastern coast of North America, most of Europe and the Middle East, and large portions of China and India are major contributors to atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The darkest areas on the map indicate where urban infrastructure – like highway systems, public transit, factories and power plants – as well as residential heating and electricity use is the greatest. Many of the yellow lines in the oceans in the above map indicate shipping routes, according to Andy Jacobson, a lead investigator with the CarbonTracker program at NOAA.

Fossil fuel carbon emissions in 216 countries, 2010 totals and per capita

China and the U.S. account for more than 40 percent of total global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, but while China produces 50 percent more carbon emissions than the U.S., its per capita emissions are a third of those of the U.S. Less developed countries tend to emit fewer total and per capita emissions, while countries with small populations and heavy infrastructure, such as Qatar and Trinidad and Tobago, have high per capita emissions.

SOURCE: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center.