Emissions from human activities have risen dramatically since the industrial revolution began more than two centuries ago. However, it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that emissions truly began to soar. Growing populations and economic growth have led to the increased combustion of fossil fuels for carbon-intensive industries in recent decades, as well as forest conversion for agricultural purposes. This growth has resulted in global greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reaching record-breaking highs, driving the climate crisis.

The concerning rise in emissions has led to governmental policies and regulations - such as the Paris Agreement - being introduced to try and mitigate the worst effects of climate change. At the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021, many of the world’s most polluting countries pledged to become zero-carbon by 2070.

Global CO2 emissions in 2021
34.81 billion metric tons
Average CO2 levels in the atmosphere
416.45 ppm
Biggest cumulative CO2 emitter in history
United States

Market size

Which country produces the most emissions?
Carbon dioxide emissions in 2010 and 2020, by select country (in million metric tons)
Further details: Visit original statistic

After years of rapid economic growth, China is now the world’s largest contributor to global CO2 emissions. In 2020, China’s carbon dioxide emissions totaled 10.7 billion metric tons (GtCO2), which was more than twice the amount of CO2 produced by the United States – the second-largest emitter. Although China’s annual emissions are currently higher than any other country, the United States is cumulatively the biggest carbon emitter in history, having produced more than 400 GtCO2 since 1750.

Climate change in China
Emissions in the U.S.
Emissions in India

Market segments

Most polluting sector
Global carbon dioxide emissions in 2020, by sector (in billion metric tons of carbon dioxide)
Further details: Visit original statistic

Energy-related industries are major sources of global greenhouse gas emissions. The most polluting sector varies from country to country, but on a global scale, the power sector emits the most CO2. In 2020, electricity and heat production were responsible for releasing 13.13 GtCO2 into the atmosphere. The second-largest contributor to global CO2 emissions is transportation – specifically passenger cars.

Transportation emissions worldwide
U.S. electric power industry emissions
Global Energy Industry

Industry trends

Emissions in Asia are on the rise
Carbon dioxide emissions worldwide from 1965 to 2020, by region* (in million metric tons of carbon dioxide)
Further details: Visit original statistic

Europe and North America have historically been the largest carbon polluters worldwide. However, emission levels in these regions have slowed down in recent decades, with noticeable reductions in Europe. In comparison, emissions in the Asia-Pacific region have been rising as countries there continue to develop – especially China and India. It is now the most polluting region worldwide, and emissions there are expected to continue rising in the coming decades.

Emissions worldwide
Climate change in the Asia-Pacific region
Emissions in the EU

Industry leaders

Which companies have produced the most CO2 emissions?
Select fossil fuel companies based on greenhouse gas emissions worldwide between 1965 and 2018 (in billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent)
Further details: Visit original statistic

Most of the world’s largest carbon polluting companies operate within the fossil fuel industry. Between 1965 and 2018, roughly 35 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions produced from fossil fuel combustion and cement production were released by just twenty companies. The state-owned oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is estimated to have produced more than 60 GtCO2e during this period; more than any other company. Other carbon majors include Chevron, Gazprom, and ExxonMobil.

Saudi Aramco

Unique aspect

Global air quality
Average PM2.5 concentration of the most polluted countries in the world in 2020 and 2021 (in micrograms per cubic meter of air)
Further details: Visit original statistic

The increase in fossil fuel combustion has not only warmed the planet, it has also worsened air quality in many countries, especially in Asia. This is especially the case in India, where concentrations of PM2.5 in cities such as Delhi have reached hazardous levels. Air pollution is now one of the leading causes of premature deaths worldwide, cutting millions of lives short every year.

Global environmental pollution
Pollution in India
Environmental quality in China

Industry Definition

The emissions category offers data on current and historic emissions at global, regional, and country levels. Within this sector, Statista provides information about greenhouse gas emissions, as well as air pollutants such as PM2.5 particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.


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