Top Ten Countries with Biggest Environmental Footprint

National Geographic releases this list that includes several countries that have made the biggest impact on the environment thus far. As it is, humans are using 50 percent more resources than the Earth can replenish in a year. In other words, humans use the equivalent of 1.5 planets per year. By 2030, humans will use the equivalent of two planets each year. Here’s some of the countries included to have the biggest environmental footprint.

Qatar’s carbon emissions per capita are the highest in the world and three times as high as the United States’. According to the Living footprints-qatarPlanet Report, produced by the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Footprint Network, among others, if every human being lived like the average Qatari, the Earth would need nearly five times more resources than it has.

Why is Qatar highest on the list of consumers? The oil pumped from the desert country’s rich sands isn’t counted against the country’s consumption (unless it’s burned in-state), but energy usage is sky-high in this Middle Eastern country. Citizens are provided with free electricity and free water, which the Guardian’s Fred Pearce described in a 2010 column as “liquid electricity,” since water in the Middle East is often produced by desalinating seawater, an energy-intensive activity. (In this photo, taken in October 2011, window washers return to the ground along the facade of the 52-story Tornado Tower.) Energy demand is rising by 7 percent a year to run the desalinators and air conditioners that maintain life in the desert and the natural gas production equipment that funds it.

In the United States, New York City twinkles at night, with Fifth Avenue and Broadway clogged with cars. If everyone lived like the average American, the Earth’s annual production of resources would be depleted by the end of March, the Global Footprint Network’s report said. Americans’ love of road trips, suspicion of public transit, and growing energy demands fuel the country’s high per-capita carbon emissions.


Australians emit 28.1 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person,one of the highest per-capita rates in the world. In addition, the country’s demand for wood, food, and pasture uses the equivalent of 753,000 square feet (7 hectares) of land per person, nearly four times greater than what is available on average around the world.

Belgium’s biocapacity of cropland is extremely low, so much of its food must be imported. This begins to explain Belgium’s high ranking on Global Footprint’s list.

Canada’s biocapacity is 14.92 hectares per capita, 5.5 times average global consumption. So if the world’s resources were as abundant everywhere as in Canada, we’d have more than enough to go around. Even so, Canada’s cities are energy hogs. The country has the seventh highest rate of carbon dioxide emissions per capita. Total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada rose 24 percent between 1990 and 2008.

The Netherlands, with its high population density and relatively little land area for crops and pasture, consumes six times more resources (energy, food, and more) than it is able to produce, and about three times more than the Earth overall is able to sustain.


A fuel farm on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland, grows rapeseed (canola) plants to ultimately make biofuel. In 2008, however, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions per capita were the second highest in the European Union. Agriculture is the largest source of emissions, but emissions from vehicles have more than doubled since 1998. However, there have been improvements in recent years: 2009 was the second year in a row in which transport emissions declined, and an increase in renewable sources of energy in the early 2000s reduced emissions from the energy sector by 10 percent in 2009.

Denmark’s carbon emissions are half that of the United States’, but its cropland (the amount of viable land that can be used to produce crops)  requirements are much higher. Because so much meat is eaten per capita in Denmark, the country must import a large amount of grain—so much that it would take up 215,000 square feet (2 hectares) of land per person, or 2.5 times more land than the country has.

Despite being the world’s fourth largest oil exporter (behind Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran), the United Arab Emirates has publicly pushed for a renewal of the Kyoto protocol (the agreement among industrialized nations to cap emissions), announced a plan to increase renewable energy production, and even launched a 1-gigawatt concentrated solar generation project.

Yet Dubai, a city of 1.5 million people (many of whom are immigrants seeking their fortunes), the world’s largest shopping mall, and an indoor ski resort, currently gets all its energy needs from the burning of natural gas, which is why it ranks third on Global Footprint’s list.

kuwait-tire fire

The tire fire, which broke out in Rhayya, 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Kuwait City, burned for more than ten hours last month. As in nearby Qatar, gas prices in Kuwait are among the lowest in the world, while GDP is among the highest. This, coupled with a lack of public transit infrastructure, makes road travel the sole means of mobility for both citizens and businesses moving goods. According to the Global Footprint Network, the average Kuwaiti uses 22 times more resources than the country provides per person.

Source: National Geographic