A Tale of Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Feb. 1, 2020

Today I am hoping to take a look into a pile of data related to greenhouse gas emissions. I recently was able to read the CDP Carbon Majors Report 2017 which details the highest polluting companies and their related emissions outputs.This presents a strong picture of what emissions are being produced, who is producing them, and what the future product may look like. If you're curious about the report, you can find it here. After reading this report, I was curious about the data they used. I went looking on the CDP webpage and was able to find the comprehensive dataset used in the analysis. You can find my resource here. The dataset features emissions values ranging from 1988 - 2015.

The CDP report is focused mainly on the specific corporate emissions. I am curious about the countries related to these emissions. In this dataset, there are 47 countries allowing 100 companies to openly produce the 71% of green house gas emissions seen on Earth. My analysis relates to where corporate headquarters are in relation to these polluters. In my opinion, the countries allowing corporations to openly pollute and create products detrimental to the environment, should be held accountable as well.

Let's start by displaying what countries have the highest frequency in the dataset.

As you can see, the The United States is by far the most frequent in the data set with nearly 30 companies associated with these emissions values. The other high frequency countries are Russia, Indonesia, Canada, China, The United Kingdom, and India.

This is where this issue becomes curious. Take a look at this plot related to the emissions of these countries over the time period of 1998 - 2015.

This displays the emissions of the countries we highlighted. As you can see the United States, with the most companies included in the list, produced less than 250 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) on average year over year. What is glaringly obvious about this visualization, is that China is, and has been since 1988 the highest polluter among this group. With average emissions above 1000 MtCO2e since the mid-2000's. This group accounts for 59% of the pollutions seen in this dataset, but when we account for China, the other six countries only account for 35%. Then, to the most interesting point, the United States only accounts for 14% of the total emissions in the dataset.

Now, what you might be curious about is that the frequency of companies per country may not be the most valid indicator of emissions volume. After all, there are 40 other countries in this dataset who are also polluting. Rather than diving into what each country produces, let's take a look at the countries who are polluting the most.

Here we see the largest polluters from 1988 - 2015. China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Russia, and the Netherlands represent 51% of the emissions seen in this dataset. If we were to combine the previous proportions with the highest polluter proportion we would see 86% of pollutions coming from only 14 countries.

The takeaway I would like to emphasize from this analysis is that the United States is not solely to blame for the production of fossil fuel emissions. With 27 companies representing only 14% of total emissions over a nearly 30 year period. It has been common to associate climate change with oil companies namely the United States companies featured in this dataset. What we have seen here is the blame is generally misplaced.