Israel’s Contribution to Climate Change

by Mitchell Evans

Hello, welcome to this blogs first post.  In this post we will be focusing on Israel’s contribution to Climate Change.  While Israel is an extremely small country, it is highly developed.  So, try to refrain from ignoring Israel’s contribution to climate change just because it is not as significant as some larger countries such as the United States or China.

Consider this:

  • The United States of America is 3,794,083 square miles and it emitted 1,546,903 (thousand metric tons of carbon) in 2008.
  • Israel is 7,992 square miles and it emitted 18,432 (thousand metric tons of carbon) in 2008.

So, per square mile, the United States emitted .40 thousand metric tons of carbon in 2008 and Israel emitted 2.3 thousand metric tons of carbon in 2008.  Israel emitted more than five times the amount of carbon, per square mile, to that of the United States in 2008!  Israel may be small but it is densely populated.  In fact, it is the 24th most densely populated country in the world (http://www.worldatlas.com/aatlas/populations/ctydensityh.htm).

Contributing Factors:

As you can see in the graph below, the greatest factors in Israel’s contribution to climate change are obviously liquids and solids.  However, it wasn’t until 1980 that solids started to play a significant role (notice the blue line).  What’s more important to note is the largest increase on the graph, which seems to be around 1948.  It seems as though Israel wasn’t emitting any CO2 before 1948.

Why is there such an increase in carbon emissions in 1948?

May 14, 1948

On May 14th 1948 the British Mandate was ended and the State of Israel was proclaimed, this means that Israel didn’t even exist before 1948, which obviously explains why there is a rapid spike in the graph around that time. In the years that followed, there was a mass immigration of Jews from Europe and Arab countries.

CO2 emissions per capita:

We already looked how much carbon is emitted per square mile of the United States and Israel.  Now, let’s look at CO2 emissions per capita (per person).  Israel is ranked 37th in the world for per capita CO2 emissions at 2.61 metric tons of carbon per capita. The United States is ranked 12th at 4.90 metric tons of carbon per capita.  This means that the people of Israel only emit about half (.53) the metric tons of carbon that American’s do.  This, I believe is a more accurate estimate of a countries anthropogenic contribution to climate change because it more accurately assesses how much the people are contributing.  However, it’s still fascinating that such a small area of land can contribute to climate change as much as Israel does.

The graph below illustrates Israel’s CO2 emissions per Capita:

The Greatest Contributors:

In the grand scheme of things, Israel’s contribution doesn’t hardly compare to the big contributors of the world.  When you look at the contributions of places like the United States, China, and India; Israel’s contribution is relatively insignificant.  When you look at the line below, it seems like Israel isn’t contributing anything at all but you must keep in mind how small the country is.  It’s contribution is small but per square mile and per capita, it’s a sizable drop in the bucket.

By Country

As you can see in the graph above, the greatest contributors to anthropogenic climate change are by far China and the United States.  If you look closely at the graph, you’ll notice that China has only recently started to come close to that of the United States.  It wasn’t until 2006 that China’s fossil fuel emissions surpassed that of the United States.  However, it should be mentioned that even though China has greater fossil fuel emissions as a whole, the United States has a higher amount of fossil fuel emissions per capita.  So, if we’re going to play the blame game, an American citizen is more responsible than a Chinese citizen for their countries fossil fuel emissions.

So, now we know who holds the most responsibility when comparing China to America but who bares the most cumulative responsibility out of all the countries listed on the graph above?  I crunched the numbers.  Keep two things in mind:  these numbers are from 1900 to 2008.  Also, the numbers are in thousand metric tons of carbon.  If you’d like to see the results in units of carbon, just multiply by 3.667.  Here are the numbers listed in order from greatest cumulative contribution to least cumulative contribution:

United States: 91,229,888
China: 31,793,558
India: 9,151,461
Italy: 5,364,817
Israel: 456,752
Kenya: 80,124

As you might have suspected, the United States is the greatest contributor. So, as you can see, the United States has emitted well beyond all of the other countries listed. China may have past the United States in current emissions but commutatively, the United States’ emissions trump all of the others. China is next in line but they have only emitted about 35% what the United States have. Next in line is India, which has only emitted about 10% as much as the United States. This goes to show that the United States has, over time, emitted far more than any other country.

The Big Picture:

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Regardless, while the blame game might be interesting, when/if climate change starts seriously  affecting the lives of humans, the ultimate concern is not going to be who was the biggest contributor.  The ultimate concern isn’t going to be who emitted the most CO2.  The ultimate concern is going to be how much CO2 is already concentrated in our atmosphere and how it is affecting the lives of people all over the world.  If you take the countries out of the picture and only consider the fact that they all are human beings, the amount of CO2 emissions for all of the above countries is: 57,768,060 (thousand metric tons of carbon)!

The countries aren’t irrelevant but the most important thing to note is that CO2 concentrations are rising.  Many skeptics will try to find creative ways to try to dispute the facts that are presented.  Most of the time, the skeptics will point to the weather (not the climate) or one obscure circumstance.  One commonly used tactic is to point out a drop in CO2 emissions.  As you can see below, there are many different ways that CO2 can be emitted into the atmosphere and those numbers sometimes vary and not all of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere stays in the atmosphere.  Regardless, you can still see an irrefutable upward trend that shows we are emitting CO2 at an increased rate.

Global Fossil Fuel Carbon Emissions:

Emissions v. Concentrations

However, emissions only contribute to the conclusive problem: CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.  The most well known set of numbers of the rising levels of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere originated from the work of Charles David Keeling who worked out of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, both seen below:

 Concentrations observed by Keeling (Keeling Curve):

It was from this observatory that Charles David Keeling worked to confirm that carbon dioxide levels are rapidly rising in the atmosphere.  You can refute his claims but the numbers speak for themselves.  He charted these numbers on what is now famously knows as the “Keeling Curve” seen below:

Keeling’s work was very important in proving that there has been a dramatic rise in CO2 concentrations.  The curve clearly reflects the spike in global CO2 emissions that are depicted in the global fossil fuel carbon emissions graph.

So, now that we know that CO2 concentrations are rising in the atmosphere, the next question is: “So what?”  Why should the people of Israel, the United States, China, India, or any other country care about CO2 emissions and concentration?  That will be the next topic of discussion for this blog: “Impacts”, coming 10/31/2012.

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