Climate change isn’t the work of one person over a short period of time, or even of a few people over decades.
Thanks to the concerted efforts of billions of people over the last couple hundred years, climate change has become a recordable phenomenon, about +0.74°C between 1906 and 2005. Interestingly, it’s not simply a matter of which nation is a world leader in industrialization. True, industrialization is generally accompanied by an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which adds to the warming effect. On the other side of the coin is deforestation, which reduces the cooling effect.
In other words, the rich, industrialized nations, aren’t necessarily weighted with all the blame for climate change. According to research done at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, climate change is a complicated problem, involving greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide, and sulphate aerosols. Additionally, land use records over many decades, especially deforestation, has also had an impact on global warming.
The biggest offenders, the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, and the United Kingdom, account for +0.7°C of a total +0.74°C increase in global temperatures in the last century. The United States alone accounts for 22% of that increase. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as CO2 and CH4, among others, is certainly a step in the right direction, such as adopting more renewable energy and reducing automotive emissions, which will reduce the warming effect. At the same time, non-industrialized nations need to replant their forests, to increase the cooling effect.
Perhaps the biggest impact emerging economies and recently industrialized nations can do is to learn from the mistakes of their older neighbors. Sure, at the turn of the last century, coal was the only option but, today there are many options, some of which require zero fossil fuels and emit zero greenhouse gases. Looking into these clean energy technologies and managing to keep their forests up, even emerging economies can keep their climate change impact to a minimum.