Measuring the impact of carbon dioxide on the environment

A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment. It calculates the greenhouse gases we are expected to produce in all our activities and measures them in units of carbon dioxide (CO2). The world average is about 4,000 kg of carbon dioxide per person per year. In the UK it is nearly 10,000 kg per person per year.

This pie chart shows what contributes to the carbon footprint of a typical person living in an MEDC.

Graphic of different contributors to a personal carbon footprint in the UKCarbon Trust, 2006

As a country develops its carbon footprint tends to increase. This pattern is shown in the graph below, with MEDCs emitting the most carbon dioxide.

Country19902006
Qatar25.256.2
United Arab Emirates29.432.8
United States19.019.0
Australia17.418.1
Singapore15.612.8
Japan9.510.1
Germany12.19.7
United Kingdom10.09.4
South Africa9.18.6
Italy7.58.1
Thailand1.84.3
Egypt1.42.2
Brazil1.41.9
Kenya0.20.3
Bangladesh0.10.3
Sierra Leone0.10.2
Ethiopia0.10.1
Graph comparing CO2 emissions in MEDC and LEDC countriesWorld Bank, 2009