Which Countries Produce the Most Pollution?

Carbon dioxide emissions are major contributors to pollution.
Carbon dioxide emissions are major contributors to pollution.

Carbon dioxide emissions, which are major contributors to pollution, arise from a number of human activities such as burning fuels that contain carbon. Naturally, these emissions can result from things such as decaying vegetation. The data used in this analysis takes into consideration carbon dioxide emissions from sources like the manufacturing of cement and the combustion of fossil fuels. Emissions from sources such as land use, forestry, and others are ignored. In addition, the criteria used to measure pollution is that of carbon dioxide emissions per capita. Essentially, this measurement looks at how much, on average, each person in a country plays a role in the emissions. In 2015, the country that had the highest level of pollution was Qatar with an emission per capita of about 39.7 tons. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are in the second and third positions with 24.4 and 21.8 tons respectively. Closing the top five are Australia and Turkmenistan with 18.6 and 17.5 tons at the fourth and fifth positions respectively. Kazakhstan is tenth with about 15.2 emissions per capita.

Top Polluters


Looking at the top country, Qatar, some interesting observations become apparent. As stated earlier, the per capita emissions look at the total production and divides the figure by the total population of the country. As of 2017, the country had an estimated population of about 2.6 million people. In addition, it is a known fact that the country is a massive producer of petroleum products, which are full of carbon. As of 2012, the country accounted for at least 13% of the global oil resources, which means that the total carbon emissions are extremely high. The high emissions become apparent when using the figures based on production against the population. For this reason, some researchers have come out stating that the UN has to use better criteria in order to portray a true representation of the situation.


Similar to Qatar above, Kuwait is also a country that is rich in oil deposits, which also explains the large figures of emissions per capita. One of the major sources that contribute to the high emissions per capita is energy production in the country. Other sources include the chemical industry, road transport, and other industries that need energy. Most of the emissions are from the southeast region of the country, which has the highest number of industries. In addition, the country has a relatively small population of about 4.2 million people and a large oil reserve, which is about 10% of the global reserve.


In Australia, most of the emissions come from the country’s heavy use of coal for the production of electricity. About 70% of the nation’s electricity comes from coal, which was probably why the country was in the top spot in 2009.

A More Accurate Picture

For a clearer description of the emissions, other things should be taken into account as well. For example, in the case of Qatar, the data should consider the exported products and the products consumed locally. Most of the carbon in the country is exported, which means that the emissions value will go down if the exports are taken into account.

Which Countries Produce the Most Pollution?

RankCountryEmissions Per Capita
1 Qatar39.7
2 Kuwait24.4
3 United Arab Emirates21.8
4 Australia18.6
5 Turkmenistan17.5
6 Oman17.5
7 United States16.1
8 Saudi Arabia16.0
9 Canada15.5
10 Kazakhstan15.2

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