How to Color Code the Global Emissions Challenge

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Following up on my article of January 23, I’d like to discuss my development of the Emissions Reduction Challenge (ERC) Index, what it means, and what we can do about its findings.

My ERC Index examines the level of CO2 and related emissions by country, its emissions per-person, its existing use of sustainable energy, and the social and economic challenges each country faces in making substantial progress in improving its situation.

The global emissions reduction challenge can, from one viewpoint, be boiled down into four words: China, United States, India. These three countries account for about 53% of all global CO2 emissions – in other words, more than the rest of the world combined.

My Process and the Purple Zone
I’ve been able to wrangle all the numbers involved in my calculations into a single number that represents a natural logarithm. Natural logs are an elegant way to define growth rates and economic challenges. They allow me to place all of the 144 nations I cover into the four color-coded categories of green, yellow, red, and purple.

All three of these giants are in my “purple zone” – a group of nations who face challenges so dire that they go beyond a traditional grouping of green, yellow, and red.

How the Colors Work:-
Green – The green challenges are the least daunting and can be found in places like Northern Europe, New Zealand, and a few other smaller countries. These countries typically have small populations, modest emissions per person, and strong, developed economies and political cultures capable of addressing their challenges effectively.

Yellow – The yellow challenges are about 3 times more difficult than the green ones. These countries encompass a range of well-developed economies in a range of sizes that are equipped to address their challenges effectively and less-developed nations that nevertheless use sustainable power and emit modest amounts of emissions today. A few examples of yellow-zone countries include Chile and Panama, Taiwan and Laos, France and the UK, and Israel.

Red –  The red zone is about 7 to 10 times more difficult than the green zone. These nations also encompass a range of sizes and economic conditions. They are united by the fact that they must act urgently, either on their own or in concert with their neighbors and global initiatives and organizations. Countries in this zone include Venezuela, Canada, Japan and South Korea, Turkey, Russia and Germany, Kenya and Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Purple – The challenges in the purple zone are 20 to 50 times more difficult than those in the green zone. The complete list of countries in this most urgent of classifications is China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Nigeria, Angola, Sudan, Congo, and South Africa.

Some, such as Pakistan, are developing nations that will require a very large percentage of their total economies to be focused on the problem to achieve results. Others have relatively developed economies but must summon the political will, such as Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, and Russia.

Still others, such as the United States and Canada, must summon political and societal will equal to their strong, developed economies to address their challenges. 

In fact, the magnitude of the challenges faced by China, the US, and India push the entire world into the purple zone, even though more than half of the countries I cover are, in and of themselves, in the green or yellow zones.

We’re All in Jail Together
As Johnny Cash sang in the song Folsom Prison, “I hang my head and cry.” He was mourning his loss of freedom in jail whenever he heard a train whistle – reminding him that the train was full of people who were free to drink coffee, smoke cigars, and travel where they wanted.

To a degree, we’re all stuck in Folsom Prison, even the billions of people living in countries that are not major contributors to CO2 emissions.

Hey Dude, Whassup?
I would love to approach China’s top leader Xi Jinping and ask him just exactly what in the hell is going on with his country and how he’s going to lead it and the world out of this CO2 emissions mess. I would also like to talk to India’s top leader Narendra Modi, and to anyone with real political power in the US who believes in the Paris Agreement and everything else associated with addressing climate change if I could find such a person.

A meeting with any of these people for me is unlikely, but if anyone reading this article meets with them, please give them my best regards.

Other Big Players
All the challenges in the purple and red zones should be considered to be urgent. In addition to the Big Three, other countries with around a 1% share or more include Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Australia, the UK, Italy, France, Poland, and Spain. The Big Three plus these countries account for more than 80% of the world’s emissions.

Complete lists of all 144 countries I survey and their zones accompany in this article. Addressing any individual challenge presents a unique combination of approaches to energy development and use, economic components and conditions, political culture, and specific characteristics of each country. I am planning to present my ERC research at the upcoming Digital Infra Network Summit in Chicago on May 20.

I welcome any inquiries about my research and discussions about any individual country or region. You can find me on LinkedIn or as @IoT2040 on Twitter


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