Visualizing human impact
= 5 GtCO2
billion tons of Carbon Dioxide
(cumulated emission in human history)
= 100 MtCO2
million tons of Carbon Dioxide
(human emissions in 2015)
Central & South
in the atmosphere
in the ocean
More than 2,000 Gigatones of carbon dioxide have been released by human activity in the atmosphere.
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Carbon dioxide emissions are from two major sources. The burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) is responsible for 2/3rd of the emissions of carbon dioxide since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The second source comes from the conversion of land, mainly from forests to pastures and croplands.
In 2015, 36 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide were released from the burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) and cement production representing 9/10 of the carbon dioxide emissions from human activities. The remaining comes from the conversion of land.
North America and Europe are responsible for half of all carbon dioxide emitted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The emerging economies of China and India account for 14%, while the rest comes from the remaining 150 plus countries.
With 4 billion people, Asia is today the biggest emitter followed by North America and Europe. Europe and the USA are responsible for over 10% of the emissions while China and India account for about 40% of all emissions. Emissions per capita in developing countries are only a fraction of those in the developed world.
Only half of all emissions of carbon dioxide from human activities have remained in the atmosphere, leading to warming of the planet and other climate changes. The rest of emissions has been removed in equal parts by the ocean and land (vegetation and soils), and thus slowing down greatly the pace of climate change.
Both the ocean and land are continuing to remove emissions. Year-to-year variations are the largest on land, with some years being the most important cleaner of atmospheric carbon dioxide while others contributing little.
Humans have a long history of releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere through multiple activities, beginning with deforestation. Around 1750, the industrial revolution began with the invention of steam power, launching an era of unprecedented carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere. With the industrial use of fossil fuels, first coal, then oil and gas, emissions have grown exponentially.
Take a look at the future