More Footprint Comparisons

In my previous post I showed different ways of comparing carbon dioxide emissions.

Here are some more, unashamedly with an Australian focus, in different formats.

As in my last post I use data from the Global Carbon Atlas for fossil fuel emissions for 2017 (the most recent data available), and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data from the World Bank, also for 2017. GDP for each nation is calculated in current US dollars.


Figure 1 shows cumulative percentages of 2017 fossil fuel emissions for all 202 countries with available data.

Fig. 1:  Cumulative CO2 emissions 2017 expressed as percentages

Globalco2 cum %

China, the USA, and India are the big hitters.  China produces 28.5% on its own.  Australia, in 16th place, produces 1.2% of global emissions, a bit behind Canada at 1.66%, and just ahead of the UK at 1.12%.  France and Italy are just over 1% each.  The remaining 183 countries each produce less than 1% – many much less.

Earth Hours

Earth Hour, where some people show how virtuous they are by switching off their lights for an hour in order to reduce emissions, might provide another way of comparing emissions.  I next compare emissions by units of “Earth Hours”.  One Australian Earth Hour is the amount of CO2 emissions reduced when:

Across Australia, all lights powered by fossil fuels; all stoves, fridges, air conditioners, and other appliances; all battery chargers; all street lights, traffic lights, and emergency lighting; all hospitals, schools, shopping centres, and telecommunications including computers; all mining operations; all transport- cars, trucks, trains, and aircraft; all farming operations; all water pumping; all manufacturing industry small and large, including steel and aluminium; all building and construction:  are shut down for one hour.

That is one Australian Earth Hour.

One Chinese Earth Hour is equal to 23.82 Australian Earth Hour units- Australia could run for 23 hours and 48 minutes on the equivalent amount of emissions. The value for America in Australian Earth Hours is 12 hours and 45 minutes; India, 6 hours; Russia, 4 hours; Japan, 2 hours 54 minutes. The value for the UK is 55 minutes and 53 seconds worth of Australian emissions output.

At the other end of the scale, El Salvador’s hourly emissions would last Australia for one minute.  Tuvalu’s total emissions are the equivalent of one tenth of one second of Australia’s emissions.


Here’s another idea.  Australia is the world’s 13th largest economy, and achieves this with emissions per dollar of GDP that put us in 105th place.  For all nations the average CO2 emissions per US dollar of GDP is 485 grams per dollar.  What if all countries were as efficient as Australia?  That is, they all had the same amount of emissions as Australia: 312 grams of CO2 per dollar of GDP.

Figure 2 shows what global emissions would look like if all nations were as efficient as Australia.

Fig. 2:  Global fossil fuel emissions currently and at Australia’s rate per dollar GDP

Global Oz efficiency

Or, to put it another way, Figure 3 shows the effect on the global economy for the same level of emissions.

Fig. 3:  Global GDP currently and at Australia’s emissions rate per dollar GDP

Global GDP Oz efficiency

That’s a potential increase of 37.7%.


Australia is punching above its weight in regard to efficiency of fossil fuel emissions per dollar of GDP.  Our carbon footprint is tiny compared with the big three- China, the USA, and India.  While there is always room for us to improve, if every country behaved as well as we do, the world would be a better place.

Tags: , , ,

%d bloggers like this: