Climate Change

India ranks fifth in national contribution to warming: Study

United States topped the list; China stood second

By Rohini Krishnamurthy
Published: Wednesday 29 March 2023

India is responsible for 0.08 degrees Celsius of warming from the 1850s through 2021, a new study estimated.  

India’s emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from 1851-2021 have resulted in 0.04°C, 0.03°C and 0.006°C of global warming over pre-industrial levels, respectively.

Overall, the country ranks fifth among the top 10 contributors to warming, the research published in Scientific Data found.

Researchers from Europe and the United States calculated national contributions to warming due to greenhouse gases such as CO2, CH4 and N2O since the 1850s.

“By focussing on the three gases that most countries include in their Nationally Determined Contributions, this dataset is uniquely positioned to informing climate policy and benchmarking,” Matthew Jones from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, said in a statement.

“It should become a living resource for continually tracking contributions to climate change and, more importantly, how those are changing,” the expert added.

Their analysis showed that CO2 is responsible for 1.11°C of warming compared to methane’s 0.41°C and nitrous oxide’s 0.08°C. 

Further, the United States topped the list of countries, with a contribution of 0.28°C (17.3 per cent) of rise in temperature.

China stood second with 0.20°C (12.3 per cent) of warming, followed by Russia’s 0.10°C (6.1 per cent), Brazil’s 0.08°C (4.9 per cent) and India’s 0.08°C (4.8 per cent).

Indonesia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada each contributed 0.03-0.05°C of warming.

National contributions to change in global mean surface temperature from historical emissions during three time periods


Source: Scientific Data

Since 2005, India climbed to the fifth spot from the 10th. China, too, rose to the second position after overtaking Russia.

Emissions from developed nations have contributed significantly to warming since the industrial revolution,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

Tracking national contributions to climate change, they added, can help understand the burden of responsibility carried by each country.

It can also further inform the design of international policies that pursue equitable decarbonisation pathways.

The cause of warming also varies. The land-use and forestry sector is a significant contributor in half the countries.

CO2 emissions from land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) in Brazil led to 0.04°C of warming.

LULUCF emissions also dominate Indonesia’s contributions to warming through historical CO2 emissions, the study read.

In contrast, LULUCF emissions during 1851-2021 were negative in several European countries.

“The contributions of Brazil, Indonesia and Argentina and many other countries are still dominated by emissions linked to historical deforestation and agricultural expansion since 1850,” Jones explained.

Also, the LULUCF sector accounted for 38 per cent of the total warming from CH4 emissions and 72 per cent from N2O emissions between 1851-2021.

The contribution of India, China and Brazil towards warming due to CH4 and N2O increased by 110 per cent, 56 per cent and 55 per cent, respectively, compared to CO2-related warming alone.

The researchers, however, highlighted that CH4 and N2O emissions are more uncertain than that of fossil CO2.

Still, fossil fuel remains the biggest culprit. “Since 1992, the additional warming caused by global fossil fuel emissions has been over four times greater than the additional warming caused by land-use change,” Jones explained.

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