Where do greenhouse gases come from?

Transportation and electricity account for 60 percent of U.S. emissions
The electricity we use, vehicles we drive, and products we make contribute to America’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.(1) The gallery below shows greenhouse gas emissions by sector.


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Why count old emissions?
Historical emissions matter because greenhouse gases released hundreds of years ago can still have a warming effect today.(2),(3),(4) The developed world has historically contributed the most emissions, but developing countries are gaining pace. For example, China is now releasing more per year than the United States.5 This means that the U.S. has a responsibility for climate change, but that developing countries will also have to be part of the solution.

While many emissions come from China, a lot of Chinese manufacturing produces goods bought by people in the U.S. and the developed world. Thus these countries are also accountable for Chinese emissions.(6) Why are China‚Äôs emissions growing so rapidly? There are two reasons: First, China must build additional infrastructure for millions of new city-dwellers each year.(7) Second, manufacturing is a much bigger part of China’s economy than the U.S.’s so it uses more energy.(8)

The U.S. has emitted as much greenhouse gas as China, Russia and the U.K. combined.(5)


Source: National Geographic, Global Carbon Project




  1. Environmental Protection Agency
  2. Argonne National Laboratory
  3. Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  4. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  5. The Energy Collective
  6. United Kingdom House of Commons
  7. Reuters
  8. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory



  1. United States Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Environmental Protection Agency
  2. Historical Emissions by Country – National Geographic, Global Carbon Project
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