Kiwis have already emitted more carbon in 2020 than some Africans will all year

2020's only six days old, but the average New Zealander will already have burned through as much carbon as a Rwandan or Malawian will all year.

Data from the Global Carbon Atlas shows the typical Kiwi creates about 8.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year - far more than the 0.09 tonnes the average Rwandan creates, or the 0.19 tonnes each produced by Malawians.

While the world average is 4.7 tonnes, Western, Middle Eastern and wealthy Asian nations far exceed that. 

Luxembourg - one of the world's richest nations in terms of GDP per capita - tops the list, each citizen releasing 40 tonnes of the greenhouse gas every year. 

They're followed by oil-rich Qatar, Trinidad and Tobago (which has a large petrochemical industry), UAE, Kuwait, Singapore, Brunei, Saudi Arabia, the US and Hong Kong. 

Other countries which produce more emissions per head than New Zealand include Canada, Finland, South Korea, Israel, the Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Kazakhstan.

The figures are highlighted in a new report by the UK arm of aid agency Oxfam.

"It's a shock to realise that in just a few days our high-carbon lifestyles here in the UK produce the same emissions as the annual footprint of people in some poor countries," chief executive Danny Sriskandarajah told The Guardian.

The UK's emissions are 8.3 tonnes a year, putting it one place behind New Zealand at 36th. 

"However, the encouraging thing is the willingness of the British public to take action."

Global Carbon Atlas top 40 emitters
The top 40 emitters, per capita. Photo credit: Global Carbon Atlas.

The UK has been amongst the first countries in the world to put a zero-emissions target into law, ahead of New Zealand. A poll commissioned by Oxfam found 61 percent of Britons want the government to do more on addressing climate change. 

It'll be an uphill battle though. United States citizens on average pump out 18 tonnes of carbon emissions every year - and the Trump administration is pulling out of the historic Paris Agreement to reduce emissions. 

China, the world's most populous country, has not just grown its economy in the past few decades, but its emissions too. In 1990 - the earliest date for which the Global Carbon Atlas has data - the average Chinese person created 1.9 tonnes of emissions; that's since grown to six tonnes. 

In that same time, New Zealand's upped its average emissions from 7.8 to 8.6 tonnes, though the latter figure - from 2017 - is down on 2005's peak of 10 tonnes per person.

Both Qatar and Luxembourg have dropped their emissions in recent years. Qatar peaked in 1997 at 53 tonnes per person, and Luxembourg in 2009 at 51.

There are presently 413 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere, according to NASA readings. The maximum level scientists have recorded prior to the 20th century was about 280. NASA says if fossil fuel burning isn't stopped, it could rise as high as 1500 parts per million, sending temperatures skyrocketing.