Unexpectedly Intriguing!
September 14, 2017

The United States and China are the two largest national sources of carbon dioxide emissions on Earth. We thought it might be interesting to compare their annual CO2 outputs, from 1958 through 2015, which we've visualized in the following animated chart.

Animation: U.S. and China Annual Territorial Emissions of Carbon Dioxide, 1959-2015

As an interesting aside, from 1988 through 2015, both nations have emitted approximately equal amounts of carbon dioxide. Looking at the first and last years of that period, the U.S.' carbon dioxide emissions totaled 4,889 [million] tonnes in 1988 and 5,093 [million] tonnes in 2015, peaking at 5,790 [million] tonnes in 2005.

Meanwhile, China emitted 2,368 [million] tonnes in 1998 and 10,216 [million] tonnes in 2015, with a peak value of 10,294 [million] tonnes in 2014, almost doubling the U.S.' carbon dioxide emissions in that year.

Update 19 September 2017, 9:23 PM: Corrections added in brackets [Thanks Jim!]


Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres. 2016. Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2016: National Emissions v1.0 [Excel Spreadsheet]. November 2016. Accessed 13 September 2017.

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