Per Capita Emissions, In One GIF

Who’s causing climate change?

Per capita emissions, by country

Imagine that you walk into an elevator. Some people have had Chipotle, some people haven’t eaten at all. The rich people let ’em rip. That elevator is the Earth, and those farts are CO2. Some people are much gassier than others and if we don’t stop farting in here, we’re all going to die.

To help you understand the situation, behold the GIF above. This animation shows each person standing in front of their farts (CO2 emissions). It shows the per capita emissions from 31 countries. It goes from worst to best.

This illustration helps, but ‘per capita’ only gives you one view of the problem. The real problem is ‘per capitalism’. 100 companies funded by 33 banks are responsible for over 70% of emissions. They are Chipotle. They’re the ones that made us gassy in the first place.

I’ve written their names next to their home countries. If you’re asking who’s really responsible, it’s them. And only political will can bring them to heel.

Climate Justice

What you must understand about this situation is that it’s not fair. The elevator has been going up for a hundred years and some people have barely had anything to eat at all. Their emissions are paltry, and yet we all breathe the same air. The poor will suffer for the sins of the rich.

You can see this by looking at emissions side by side.

You can see how unequal the responsibility is. Someone from Qatar is responsible for 40 tonnes of CO2. Someone from the D.R. Congo is responsible for 0.02 tonnes. Westerners emit more in a flight than most Africans do in a year. It’s atmospheric colonization.

The worst offender of all is America, and they take the least responsibility. America has taken a historic dump in the elevator and blamed it on China.

If you follow the blood money, it leads to the USA

Americans don’t emit the most, but their country is awash in blood money. There are so many names that it fills up the image. If you follow the money it leads to the USA. There’s a trail of blood that leads there as well; America is now a mercenary force for the Saudis and happily claims blood for oil.

As much as the US likes to think they’re the good guys, they’re only so on TV. Right now they’re a supervillain, actively destroying the Earth.

Perhaps you’re Canadian and nodding along? Fuck you too.

Canadians emit nearly as much as Americans, and their companies and banks are making plenty of money doing so. Canadians will have to do more than stand around and be reasonable. They’ll have to put pressure on their own banks and their own companies if they want to be taken seriously.

But that’s enough chastizing the countries I’ve lived in. China also needs to turn around. Everyone does.

Let’s zoom out a bit.

This is a view of all the countries at once, via Ville Seppälä.

It’s like a terrible fractal, rapidly spinning out of control.

When you look at it all at once, you can immediately see that the problem is overconsumption by a few, not overpopulation.

This is a political problem. This is how we structure our societies. What we subsidize and what we do not. What we measure and what we don’t. We didn’t just end up here, there were political policies that favored fossil fuels and GDP at all costs. There are political policies that can lead us out.

Today, multi-national corporations are allied with nationalist politicians to preserve a suicidal status quo. But they are old men, and it is our children and grandchildren who will suffer. Propping them up are countless ‘average’ people, happy enough with how things are, uncomfortable with change.

And yet change we must. It’s not just the consequences that we’re already seeing. It’s the future we’re being denied. Do we really want to go into the 21st century using 1800s tech? Are we really so attached to fossil fuels that smell and pollute so obviously?

Renewable energy is as great an opportunity today as fossil fuels were for our ancestors in the early 1900s. Just as whalers and horse-owners fell out of favor, there must be winners and losers for civilization to move on.

So let them lose. Let the oil barons and lying politicians and energy tyrants lose. Let human civilization advance. Not just to preserve the Earth that we live on, but to move forward as a species.

Have a look at our civilization and see if this is what we want to be. Our core energy technology is stuck in the 1960s. Is this the future you dreamt of? Have you no greater dreams?

Here’s an expanded view of the GIF, with 68 countries. Perhaps you’ll see yourself in it.

Look at your place in these visualizations and see if you’re proud of the cloud of farts behind you. As we hurtle through space on elevator Earth, some of us are dropping real stinkers, and we need to stop. It’s going to kill us all and anyways, it’s just gross. There’s a better way to live, and this elevator still has a ways to go.

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He/him. Videos: and podcast:

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