Mapping the Carbon Footprint of Nations

Keiichiro Kanemoto, Daniel Moran, Edgar G. Hertwich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Citations (Scopus)


Life cycle thinking asks companies and consumers to take responsibility for emissions along their entire supply chain. As the world economy becomes more complex it is increasingly difficult to connect consumers and other downstream users to the origins of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Given the important role of subnational entities - cities, states, and companies - in GHG abatement efforts, it would be advantageous to better link downstream users to facilities and regulators who control primary emissions. We present a new spatially explicit carbon footprint method for establishing such connections. We find that for most developed countries the carbon footprint has diluted and spread: for example, since 1970 the U.S. carbon footprint has grown 23% territorially, and 38% in consumption-based terms, but nearly 200% in spatial extent (i.e., the minimum area needed to contain 90% of emissions). The rapidly growing carbon footprints of China and India, however, do not show such a spatial expansion of their consumption footprints in spite of their increasing participation in the world economy. In their case, urbanization concentrates domestic pollution and this offsets the increasing importance of imports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10512-10517
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Oct 4


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