UK, US, China: How the world’s carbon center of gravity moved over 200 years | Cop26 – Community News
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UK, US, China: How the world’s carbon center of gravity moved over 200 years | Cop26

A new Guardian visualization reveals how the “center of gravity” of global emissions has moved over the past 200 years.

The analysis shows how the geographic center of the world’s CO2 emissions was directly over the UK before it was pulled west by the US and back east again with the rise of China.

The ‘center of gravity’ of global emissions



The carbon center of gravity is calculated by taking an average of each country’s latitude and longitude, weighted by their annual emissions. The most polluting countries exert the greatest attraction on the emission center.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the industrial powers of the US, UK and northwestern Europe were responsible for the majority of emissions. By the end of World War II, the global emissions center was located just 25 miles (40 km) off the US East Coast.

Since then, increasing industrialization in Asia — led by China — has dragged the emissions center more than 7,000 miles east. It is now located on the Tibetan Plateau in western China.

This view should not be interpreted as suggesting that the population of China has a disproportionate amount of CO. produces2. Per capita, 36 countries had higher CO2 emissions in 2020.

But the focus does emphasize the importance of getting big emitters like the US and China to commit to stronger climate policies at the Cop26 summit.

New models from the International Energy Agency suggest that carbon emissions have peaked in the world’s richest economies — including Europe and the US — but are likely to rise in less developed countries over the next decade. This is under an established policy scenario, which takes into account current and announced climate policies from governments around the world.

How will CO2 emissions develop over the next ten years?

Historical and modeled carbon emissions (billion tons of CO2)

Source: IEA. The ‘explained policy’ scenario is not a forecast, but gives an idea of ​​the direction in which the existing and announced policy is taking the energy sector

China, which has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2060, may still emit 11.4 billion tons of CO2 in 2030 – a slight increase from the level recorded in 2020. In Africa, emissions could increase by a quarter in the next 10 years, as a result of strong population growth and improved living standards. Emissions in India would increase by 43%.

To limit global warming to 2C, governments would have to drastically increase their ambition, closing fossil power plants while investing more in renewable energy and electric cars.


The center of gravity of the emissions was calculated using country-level data from the Global Carbon Project. Figures for 2020 are estimates based on Carbon Monitor growth rates.

Thanks to the data team at The Economist who shared their method on calculating the weighted average of a set of latitude and longitude pairs.