The top ten polluters
10. Thailand
Bad air in Bangkok
9. France
La France atomique
8. Spain
¡Air, caramba!
7. China
The biggest polluter
6. Germany
Germany goes grüne
5. The United States
Second only to China
4. Canada
Changes needed, from far and wide
3. Saudi Arabia
The paradox of plenty
2. Kuwait
Burning our home
1. Qatar
World champions in CO2
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The top ten polluters

In November 2021, the United Nations released a study about pollution and climate change, where it ranked the top ten countries that are the biggest contributors per capita to human damage to the environment. This is the list, with some surprises.

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10. Thailand

This Southeast Asian kingdom is home to around 70 million people and an average of 4.05 tonnes of CO2 per inhabitant, placing the country in the number 10 spot. Currently, Thailand faces environmental problems such as deforestation, water scarcity, and air quality, the latter of which cost tens of thousands of deaths every year.

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Bad air in Bangkok

According to the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, the country is number 167, out of 190, in air pollution, which is particularly bad in Bangkok, the capital of the country.

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9. France

France is the first G7 country to find a place on the list but hardly the last with 5.02 per capita, per the UN study. A November 2021 piece from France24 reports that the country is currently lagging behind in its carbon-neutral goal for 2050.

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La France atomique

Among other strategies, the French government has been heavily investing in nuclear energy. Currently, the country is the biggest consumer of nuclear energy per capita, which make up 70% of France’s electric output.

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8. Spain

Spain and its 47 million people overpass France to land in eighth place, with 6.09 tonnes of CO2 generated per person living in the Southern European country.

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¡Air, caramba!

The Southern European nation ranks 88th, out of 106, on the Air Quality Index done by Swiss company IQAir. According to their study, Spain has a level of PM2.5 twice as much as recommended by the World Health Organization.

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7. China

The 1,4 billion people that live in the People’s Republic of China generate an average of 7.72 tonnes of CO2, according to the UN report. Data from the Global Carbon Project reveals that this Asian superpower alone is responsible for 24% of all carbon emissions around the globe.

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The biggest polluter

A 2020 study published by The Lancet estimated that 1.24 million people died in China in 2017 as a result of air pollution. The Global Carbon Project reveals that the primary source of CO2 emissions in the country is a fossil fuel, particularly coal.

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6. Germany

The Federal Republic of Germany leads the European nations with 9.7 tonnes of C02 per capita produced by a population of over 82 million. The floods that the European nation suffered in 2021 are a stark reminder of how helpless a country can be, despite all the wealth and power that wields.

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Germany goes grüne

Nonetheless, it seems that the concern among the German people about the environment has been growing in the most recent years. The 2021 General Election saw the Green Party become the country’s third political force, with 15% of the votes.

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5. The United States

The Land of the Free generates 15% of all CO2 emissions, as reported by the Global Carbon Project, with every person in the United States being responsible for 15.74 tonnes. Most of it comes from industry, transportation, and electricity generation.

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Second only to China

Although the country has cut on coal in the past years, it’s still heavily reliant on crude oil. The United States is the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world, behind China, with 4,7 billion metric tons of CO2 released in 2019.

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4. Canada

The Great White North surpasses its southern neighbor with 16,85 CO2 emissions for each of its 38 million inhabitants. Most of it comes from oil, gas, and transportation, according to data from the Canadian government.

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Changes needed, from far and wide

The Berlin-based think tank Hot for Cool Institute, as reported by CBC, argues that Canadians should reduce their carbon footprint by 95% by 2050 if the country wants to reach the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

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3. Saudi Arabia

The largest country in the Middle East, with a population of 34 million people, this kingdom is responsible for an average of 19.39 tonnes of CO2 for every inhabitant.

Image: ekrem osmanoglu / Unsplash

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The paradox of plenty

As the largest OPEC exporter, the oil industry has taken its toll on Saudi Arabia, from air quality to oil spills to wasteful energy usage. Other issues that face the Middle-Eastern kingdom are deforestation and desertification.

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2. Kuwait

Saudi Arabia is hardly the only oil-rich nation to appear ranked. Kuwait, with 4,3 million people, is responsible for CO2 emissions of 23,49 tonnes per capita, three times more than China’s. The Middle Eastern country reached temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius in the summer of 2021, with seahorses and clams boiling alive on the country’s shores.

Image: Jan Dommerholt / Unsplash

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Burning our home

Scientists believe, according to NBC news, that if Kuwait continues burning oil for energy and other environmentally-unfriendly practices Kuwait might become inhospitable for human life by the end of the 21st century.

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1. Qatar

The emirate of Qatar is the highest CO2 emitter per capita in the world, with 37,05 tonnes of carbon dioxide coming from a population of just above 2 million people. That’s more than twice the average US resident.

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World champions in CO2

The World Bank reveals that CO2 emissions peaked in 2005, at 47,7. Still, Doha, Qatar’s capital and where 80% of the population lives, reports concentrations of PM2.5 in the air seven times higher than those recommended by the World Health Organization, per IQAir.

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