How American Exceptionalism Is Destroying The Planet, In 2 Charts

Our carbon emissions per capita are twice Western Europe's.

At the COP21 conference in Paris this week, world leaders met to attempt an agreement on a global solution to one of humanity's biggest problems: climate change. 

But while this is now a worldwide problem, it's one that a  small part of the population is disproportionately responsible for. It's our problem. Me, you, people who are wealthy enough to own smartphones, computers, cars and big-screen televisions.

A new report out by economists Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty shows just how unequal carbon emissions are around the world. (There's a short version published by Oxfam here, and a full, bilingual version here.) They find that richest 10 percent of people in the world are responsible for half of the total lifestyle consumption emissions, or those emissions related to things that people buy. This particular statistic is one my colleague Sam Levine wrote about at greater length

Consumers in North America are the worst offenders. The chart below shows carbon emissions by region per capita, or the average per person in the population. North Americans are ruining the planet at twice the rate of their Western European counterparts.

Climate change is not just a North American problem, but we're more responsible than almost anyone else. That should probably play a part in proposed solutions.