The rewards of economic development are many: an increase in living standards, higher literacy rates, technological advances, longer lifespans, and greater wealth, among other benefits.
Historically, the fastest way to improve people’s lives is through the use of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and petroleum, accessed through mining and drilling. Harnessing the power of these fuels accelerated with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, converting many of the world’s economies into industrial powerhouses from largely agrarian societies. It is only within the last century, with the rise of the environmental movement, that we have been made aware of the threat fossil fuels pose to the future of our planet. (These are 26 countries that consume more energy than they produce.)
Many countries, most of them developed nations, have taken steps to switch to cleaner energy sources. But some have not and continue to use fossil fuels to raise their standard of living.
To determine the 25 countries increasing emissions the fastest, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from two sources: the 2021 Global Carbon Budget published annually by the Integrated Carbon Observation System, a community of more than 500 scientists and 80 universities and institutes studying greenhouse gas concentrations and carbon fluxes worldwide; and the International Energy Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy 2021 Edition report.
We ranked 25 countries, lowest to highest, on the percentage of their change in CO2 emissions from 2010 to 2020, using data from the Global Carbon Project. Data on CO2 emissions change from 1971 to 2020 and total emissions by country is also from the same source. Data on each country’s change in CO2 emissions per capita and GHG emissions are from the IEA report.
Of the 25 countries on our list, all but one is in either Asia or Africa. The lone exception is Guatemala in Central America. (On a more local basis, these are the cities that emit the most carbon dioxide in the world.)
Virtually all of them have some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. For many, like Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo, development has depended on drilling for oil. It has also sometimes meant unfettered deforestation, an issue especially in nations such as Mongolia, where environmental laws and institutions are weak.
Most of the nations on this list are signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change. Many have action plans to address sustainability and combat climate change. Their challenge is raising the economic well-being of their citizens while being guardians of the health of the planet.