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Germany causes "only" 2 percent of global CO2 emissions - 7 reasons why this figure is deceptive

Germany emits only 2 percent of global CO2 emissions

Germany is responsible for about 2 percent of global CO2 emissions - isn't that pretty low? First of all: this fact is basically true - and is also very popular, especially among climate protection opponents. For example, Friedrich Merz, who almost became the CDU's candidate for chancellor, used the argument on his Twitter channel.₁ After all, it proves that other countries have a significantly higher share of the climate change than we Germans, who can hardly seem to make a real difference. But as comfortable as this way of thinking may sound, it has a huge limp.

In this article, I would like to briefly and concisely explain to you why the argument is misleading in several ways and why we cannot escape responsibility with this lazy excuse.

In advance a short Table of contents for you. The "2 percent argument" is misleading and hypocritical, because...

  1. there are 195 other countries in the world
  2. you have to look at the share of the world population
  3. the per capita emissions are decisive
  4. 0 percent are better
  5. Germany has committed itself by law
  6. climate change does not stop at national borders
  7. each individual is crucial

Which countries produce the most CO2?

First, we should look at who exactly are the countries we like to blame. The EU Commission has produced a detailed report on this subject₂, the results of which I will list here first:

PlacementCO2 emissionsglobal sharePer capita
1. china11.256 million t29.7 percent6,84 t
2. USA5,275 million t13 percent15,03 t
3. india2,622 million t6.9 percent1,71 t
4. russia1,748 million t4.6 percent10,98 t
5. japan1,199 million t3.2 percent8,55 t
6. germany753 million t2.0 percent 8,40 t
7. iran728 million t1.9 percent8,32 t
8. south Korea695 million t1.8 percent11,74 t
9. saudi arabia625 million t1.7 percent14,59 t
10. canada594 million t1.6 percent15,25 t
11. …
Results from the "Fossil CO2 and GHG emissions of all world countries" report by the EU Commission from 2018.

I have already added the "per capita" tab to the list because this value will become important in a moment. Here, however, we can clearly see that countries such as China, the USA, India, Russia and Japan have a significantly higher share of global CO2 emissions than Germany.

Germany causes "only" 2 percent - Why should that be a reason to act?

Traffic in front of Brandenburg Gate in Germany

"The others emit much more CO2!", "We don't make any difference!", "It won't do any good if we Germans cut CO2", "Others have to make a start first"... it sounds like kindergarten, don't you think? But that is exactly what is written between the lines of the argument that Germany emits "only" 2 percent of global CO2 emissions. Here, I will now briefly and concisely present 7 reasons why we in Germany are absolutely responsible.

1. because there are 195 other countries in the world

Even if we Germans are "only" responsible for 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, counts Germany thus still ranks among the top ten global CO2-Causer. There are 188 countries in the world whose share is even lower. That alone is a clear indication that we may be living beyond our means.

2. because you have to include the share of the world population

Now let's put our share of global emissions in relation to the size of the population. Measured by the World population we Germans account for 1.07 percent.₄ However, we emit more than 2 percent of global emissions, which in turn confirms that we are responsible for higher CO2 emissions than we would be entitled to in a fair world.

If you put our share of CO2 emissions in relation to the size of the population, 2 percent are therefore extremely much. However, the fact is extremely easy to sell as insignificant and low due to Germany's low population compared to countries such as China, India or the USA.

3. because the per capita output IS decisive

Per capita, each German produces about 8.4 tons of CO2 per year. That is almost five times what an Indian emits on average per year, whose country, mind you, is ranked third among the countries with the highest CO2 emissions.

On global average, about 4.8 tons of CO2 are emitted.₅ And that is precisely why we have a much greater responsibility for climate change than the argument that "Germany only emits 2 percent of global CO2 emissions" might suggest.

4. because 0 percent is better

Our politics and also we as individuals have not yet done much about itthat Germany is reducing its carbon footprint. Or does anyone here actually feel that way? Probably not. Accordingly, the potential for climate protection is great - and no time for lazy excuses or rash and unfounded satisfaction.

5. because Germany has committed itself by law

On December 12, 2015, Germany adopted the Paris Agreement of Paris was signed and recognized. Thus, it is even legally stipulated that Germany must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, no matter how high the current share of global emissions may be at present.

Also the "Climate Protection Plan 2050" of the Federal Government purports to reduce German CO2 emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to the year 1990.

6. because climate change does not stop at national borders

The earth does not care which individual countries have caused global warming, only that it is being caused. Moreover, as the name suggests, it is global - and does not stop at national borders. Climate change thus affects us all - one sooner, the other later.

Living as climate-friendly as possible and not making excuses for not doing so is thus also a matter of respect for other people. Not least because the People in developing countriesThe main reason for this is that the countries that contribute very little to climate change are those that have been suffering from its consequences for many years.

7. because every individual is crucial

... and not what the rest of the country is doing. It is pleasantly easy to get out of the wayby vaguely claiming that "the country is responsible". But actually each and every one of us bears the responsibility through his or her daily behavior and cannot simply pass them off - to "politics" (also undefined).

Tip: "You can't change anything on your own anyway"is what many people believe. In the linked article you will learn why you are never alone with good, positive intentions.

we must learn to live in a more climate-friendly way

Climate change - Germany causes only 2 percent of global emissions

Our lifestyle in the Western world is the reason that man-made climate change exists in the first place. But it may just as well be the solution to one of the biggest environmental problems of our time be

We are all responsible for this and cannot avoid learning, to live more climate friendly. Politicians are responsible for creating target-oriented framework conditions in step with one another. So in the end, it comes down to each individual: whether on a large or small scale.

Like to use this further contributions and recommendationsto make your everyday life more climate-friendly:

Germany (with "only" 80 million people) produces more than 2 percent of global CO2 emissions

This should be the honest statement - and at the same time an alarm signal for all! The hypocritical argument that "Germany only emits 2 percent of global CO2 emissions", on the other hand, suggests that the responsibility is negligible, even though it is precisely we Germans, together with other industrialized nations, who are responsible.

Our country and each individual have countless opportunities to specifically counteract climate change. Yes, climate protection can be expensive. But doing nothing and leaving everything as it is will cost each individual and the entire country much more. As a G7 country, our German policy-makers should be leading the way in climate protection instead of shirking their responsibility.

I hope that I was able to help you with this article on Germany's 2 percent share of global CO2 emissions. Do you have any questions or suggestions? Then I look forward to your comments.

Stay Climate Friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS.: Do you know where the Difference between weather and climate lies? Or how extreme weather is related to climate change? You can find out in the linked articles. Have fun!

₁ Friedrich Merz: @_FriedrichMer via Twitter on 09.05.2021.

₂ EU Commission (2018): Fossil CO2 and GHG emissions of all world countries, 2019 report, available at [13.08.2021].

₃ Statista GmbH (2020): CO2 emissions per capita worldwide by selected countries in 2018, available at [13.08.2021].

₄ United Nations: 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, available at [13.08.2021].

₅ Green City e.V.: Germany's share of global CO2 emissions: Why two percent is not little at all (as of June 29, 2021), available at [13.08.2021].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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