United States
Overview of carbon emissions produced by the United States
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What percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions does the United States produce?

The United States produces 12% of global emissions, and has been ranked the world’s 2nd largest emitter of greenhouse gases since 1990. Since this date, their annual emissions have increased by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.22%.

Summary – GHG Emissions in the United States

Countrythe United States
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in USD$23tr
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 20195.77bn
Change in Emissions since 2018-2.1%
Percentage of Total Emissions (2019)12%
Rank – Emitters in 20192
Total Greenhouse Gas Emissions since 1990178bn
Compound Annual Growth – Emissions since 19900.22%
Percentage of Total Emissions (1990-2019)15.3%
GDP Per Capita (USD)$69.3k
Emissions Per Capita17.4
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In the last recorded year (2019), the United States was the world’s 2nd largest producer of yearly carbon dioxide emissions and contributed 12% of all global emissions. Other countries with a large amount of emissions in the same period include China, India, and Indonesia. These three nations produced 25.2%, 7%, and 4.1% of global emissions respectively.

641ce854045cc31c7c479e6b United%2520States change in emissions 1990 to present

In 2019, the United States emitted 5.77bn metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or MtCO₂e. This represented a decrease in emissions from 2018 by -2.1%.

Emissions per capita in The United States – average household carbon footprint

The population of the United States is 332m. On a per capita basis, they produce 17.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) per person. This places them 19th out of 191 on emissions produced per capita. The top three emitters per capita are Solomon Islands, Qatar, and Kuwait.

What is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States?

In 2019, the United States produced 6bn metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This was a reduction of -2% from 2018. 80.3% of these emissions came from CO2, 12.4% came from CH4, and 4.4% came from N2O.

The sector that produced the most emissions in 2019 was the energy industry. Energy produced 5.25bn of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This amounted to 87.4% of total GHG in the United States. The second and third largest emitting sectors were agriculture and industrial processes- producing 6.4% and 4% of total GHG respectively.


The industry that produced the most energy related emissions was the electricity/heat sector, emitting 1.97bn tonnes of greenhouse gas. The second and third largest emitting sectors were transportation and building – producing 1.82bn and 558m tonnes of GHG each.

Land Use Change and Forestry

Land use change and forestry (LUCF), such as deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems to agricultural or urban areas, can have a significant impact on carbon emissions.

  • Trees and other vegetation absorb and store carbon through the process of photosynthesis, and when they are cut down or burned, that stored carbon is released into the atmosphere.
  • Deforestation and other forms of land use change can also reduce the ability of ecosystems to absorb and store carbon in the future. Additionally, the conversion of land for agriculture or urban development can lead to the release of carbon stored in the soil.
  • On the other hand, sustainable forestry practices, such as reforestation and afforestation, can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in trees and other vegetation.

In the case of the United States, their LUCF had a positive impact on their emissions, reducing their footprint by 230m tonnes.

After accounting for land use change and forestry, the total amount of greenhouse emissions in the United States in 2019 was 5.77bn metric tonnes.

Is there a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth?

In 2019, gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States grew by 4.1% from the previous year. Measured in US dollars, the economy went from $20.5tr to $21.4tr. In the same period carbon emissions decreased by -2.1%. Over a ten year period from 2009 to 2019, GDP grew by 47.6%, while emissions have increased by 0.23%.

To put this into context, the compound annual growth rate of GDP in the United States over the previous ten years was 4% and the CAGR for greenhouse gas emissions was 0.02%.

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