Carbon dioxide makes up about 2/3 of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect, mainly from burning of coal, oil, and gas. There has been a relentless rise in carbon emissions due to the use of fossil fuels over the 20th century, or about a 15x increase from 1900 till today, partly due to that fact that the world population has increased rather dramatically, from just over 1.5 billion in 1900 to over 7 billion today. As of 2014, the atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The steam engine was the single most transformative technological breakthrough in modern history due to its ability to tap into fossil fuel energy and make it into productive energy that was used to industrialize the economy in the Industrial Revolution. In our current time, the single most dramatic change in the world economy is China’s rise to economic pre-eminence, which came with mass air and water pollution and enormous energy use. Professor Sachs shows a graph that illustrates China’s total energy use and economic growth and discusses the country’s emissions. China’s energy base is mostly coal, which leads it to account for roughly a quarter of the world’s emissions, while the US accounts for about 15% of the world’s emissions. If we look the historical accumulation of emissions, the United States is number one. In terms of per capita emissions, the US is still number one; the richer countries have the highest emissions per capita, while the big absolute emissions have big populations like China. This video is part of the module The Basics of Climate Change Science.
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