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The Climate Clock is ticking

by Jo Hand | 02 May 2021

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Country climate clocks show huge variation in urgency to cut personal carbon footprints

The global climate clock shows that we have just over 10 years left before the world’s carbon budget runs out in order to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

New research from Giki looks at the climate clocks for countries, and groups of individuals, to understand the variation that different carbon footprints and associated lifestyles make to the amount of time we have left. The research finds that country climate clocks vary from just a few years to over 70 years before the carbon budget runs out. For individuals, the poorest 50% have a climate clock that’s over 100 times longer than the richest 1%.

Click here to download the full report here

1

What is a climate clock?

Climate clocks compare current emissions to the remaining carbon budget, as defined by the UN IPCC and work out how much time is left until the current budget runs out. Our analysis looks at the budget we have left, if we are to have a reasonable chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, and how this is impacted by different lifestyles around the globe.

Country and group climate clocks follow the same approach but assume that everyone in the world lives like the person in that country or group.

climate clock gz

Key Findings

The table below shows country climate clocks and how long is left before the global carbon budget runs out, if everybody in the world had the same lifestyle and associated carbon footprint as people in each of the countries listed below.

Country specific climate clocks

CountryAverage carbon footprint (tonnes)Climate Clock
US17.52 years 5 months
 Canada16.12 years 8 months
 Australia15.42 years 9 months
 Russia9.44 years 7 months
 UK9.14 years 8 months
 EU8.05 years 4 months
 China6.07 years 2 months
 Vietnam2.120 years 6 months
 India1.725 years 4 months
Bangladesh0.671 years 10 months
Bhutan0.0For Ever
Source: Ourworldindata.org, Giki

Group specific climate clocks

GroupAverage carbon footprint (tonnes)Climate Clock
Poorest 50%< 1 tonne57 years 6 months
Richest 1%750 years 9 months
Source: Oxfam, Giki
  • For countries with the largest per capita footprint, including the USA, Canada and Australia, the requirement to decarbonise the energy sector, and encourage households and businesses to use renewable resources and zero carbon technologies is the most urgent.
  • Wealthy nations tend to have a higher per capita personal footprint than countries with a lower GDP.
  • The average global personal carbon footprint, based on consumption is 5 tonnes. This is over 4 tonnes greater than the footprint of the poorest 50% of the world population.
  • The 770,000 people living in Bhutan, show that it is possible to live without producing carbon emissions. Bhutan is officially carbon negative. With a hydro powered electricity system, and strong commitment to end deforestation, and ensure a coherent policy of tree planting, which has led to 70% of forest cover across the country. There is effectively no climate clock ticking in Bhutan.

You can check out your own personal climate clock on Giki Zero, and also find steps to reduce it.