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Accounting for climate in ranking countries' carbon dioxide emissions

In: American Scientist. Vol. 100, no. 4 (July/Aug. 2012), p. 278.

Authors: Michael Sivak, Brandon Schoettle.

Increased concern about carbon dioxide emissions has resulted in efforts to create methods for ranking countries according to their emissions. Such rankings inform policy decisions on an international scale; the more comprehensive these rankings are, the better our chances of reducing emissions. It has long been recognized that comparing individual countries based on their absolute amounts of carbon dioxide emissions is problematic. So it is common to adjust the total amount of emissions in order to account for the size of each country-s population and its overall economic output. These adjustments result in measures such as emissions per capita and emissions per gross domestic product (GDP).