It’s acknowledged all over the world that United Nations (UN) member states signed the latest climate agreement, The Paris Agreement, in 2015. 

The Paris Agreement central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.

The global temperature mainly depends on how much energy the planet receives from the Sun and how much it radiates back into space—quantities that change very little. The amount of energy radiated by the Earth depends significantly on the chemical composition of the atmosphere, particularly the amount of heat-trapping Greenhouse Gases (GHG).

Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called GHG.  GHG emissions defined as the discharge of GHG, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and various halogenated hydrocarbons, into the atmosphere. Combustion of fossil fuels, agricultural activities and industrial processes contribute to the emissions of GHG.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas (GHG). The attributes of GHG is known as it absorbs and emits thermal radiation.  Climate change is primarily a problem of too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This carbon overload is caused mainly when we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas or cut down and burn forests.  There are many heat-trapping gases (from methane to water vapor), but CO2 puts us at the greatest risk of irreversible changes if it continues to accumulate unabated in the atmosphere. There are two key reasons why.

The chart below represents the cumulative emissions of each nation through time from the industrial evolution in 1750

Cumulative CO2 Emissions 2017: It represents the total sum of CO₂ emissions produced from fossil fuels and cement since 1751, and is measured in tonnes.

Source: Global Carbon Information Analysis (CDIAC)

The UK was the world’s first industrial-scale CO2 emitter. Emissions in other European countries and North America shortly followed and produced CO2 over the majority of this time period. Other regions—Latin America, Asia and Africa—started contributing to global CO2 emissions much later, largely contained to the 20th and 21st centuries.

The accumulated totals today:  the US and Europe dominate in terms of cumulative emissions. China’s rapid growth in emissions over the last few decades now makes it the world’s second largest cumulative emitter, although it still comes in at less than 50 percent of the US total.