India has contributed to 0.08 degrees Celsius of global warming from the 1850s to 2021 due to its emissions of key greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), according to the study recently published in Scientific Data.
Specifically, India’s emissions from 1851 to 2021 have resulted in 0.04°C, 0.03°C, and 0.006°C of global warming above pre-industrial CO2, CH4, and N2O levels, respectively.
The study ranks India as the fifth largest contributor to global warming among the top 10 countries analysed. This research comes at a crucial time in mitigating the impacts of climate change as we enter a critical decade for climate policy.
Countries ranked by greenhouse gas emissions impact
In a recent study led by Dr Matthew Jones of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, researchers calculated the response of global mean surface temperature to emissions of three gases greenhouse gases and analyzed the national contributions to warming resulting from each gas, including those from the fossil fuel and land use sectors.
The study provides rankings of the countries that have contributed the most to global warming and insight into how they have changed since the formation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, a key milestone in international climate policy.
The study found that the largest contributors to global warming through emissions of the three gases since 1850 were the US, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Germany, the UK, Japan and Canada, with the US being The one that contributed the most with 0.28 °C (17.3% of the warming induced by the global emissions of the three GHGs).
Of the three gases, CO2 emissions contributed the most to warming through 2021, with warming through global CO2 emissions at 1.11°C, followed by CH4 emissions at 0.41°C and N2O emissions at 0.08 °C.
The study also found that 69.1% of the total warming caused by the three gases through 2021 was related to CO2 emissions alone.
This fraction varied between countries and was lower in those with large agricultural sectors because agriculture is a major source of CH4 and N2O emissions.
These findings are particularly relevant as we enter a critical decade for mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Tracking National contributions to Climate Change
In recent years, India has risen from 10th to 5th place in terms of national contributions to climate change, while China has overtaken Russia to reach the second position.
According to a research paper, emissions from developed countries have contributed significantly to global warming since the industrial revolution, and understanding national contributions can help determine each country’s burden of responsibility.
The document suggests that this understanding can help design international policies that aim to achieve equitable pathways to decarbonization.
The land use and forestry sector plays an important role in contributing to global warming, especially in half of the countries.
For example, CO2 emissions from land use, land-use change, and forestry in Brazil have caused warming of 0.04°C, while the same emissions dominate Indonesia’s contributions to warming at through historical CO2 emissions.
On the other hand, LULUCF emissions were negative in several European countries between 1851-2021.
Fossil Fuel: the biggest Culprit
According to Jones, many countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and Argentina are still dominated by emissions linked to historic deforestation and agricultural expansion since 1850.
In addition, the LULUCF sector accounted for 38% of total warming from CH4 emissions and 72% of N2O emissions between 1851-2021. Compared with CO2-related warming alone, the contribution of India, China, and Brazil to warming due to CH4 and N2O increased by 110%, 56%, and 55%, respectively.
However, the emissions of CH4 and N2O are more uncertain than those of fossil CO2, as the researchers point out.
Despite the contribution of CH4 and N2O emissions, fossil fuels remain the largest contributor to global warming. According to Jones, global emissions from fossil fuels have caused four times as much additional warming since 1992 as land-use change.
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