The Universe Doesn’t Care About “Per Capita” Amounts

If you are not careful, it is easy for politicians and the media to mislead you . Consider the nonsense we see and hear about climate change.

Here is an example showing CO2 production per capita by country. Visualizing Global Per Capita CO2 Emissions.

You will notice Canada is very high at 15.2 tons per capita per year. 30,400 pounds. What do you think about it when you see that? If you listen to politicians and their talking points, and I recommend you do not, you might think Canada has a large task to bring that down.

Both you and the politicians would be wrong.

The universe doesn’t care about per capita statistics.

If CO2 is involved at all, it is the total CO2 produced that matters. If Canada had a population of one person, it’s per capita creation would be much higher, but it’s total CO2 production would be unchanged. Wouldn’t you agree it is the total production instead of the per capita amount that matters?

It might be useful if you sorted out what citizens produce on their own and isolate out what is created by industrial activities, (steel and cement for example,) fossil fuel production, livestock farming, and natural effects like volcanoes, but even without knowing those,  there is still useful information. When the nonsense is adequate, nuance doesn’t matter much.

To get the impact the universe sees and understands you must multiply per capita by population. China has 40 times as many “capitas” as Canada. Despite lower per capita emissions, their “universe” impact is more than 20 times greater

The universe is always process oriented.

Expelling CO2 from a nation is a two-fold thing. How much is created and how much is absorbed is easy enough to think about. Here is another picture that might be useful for thinking about the question. How many trees per capita might be an interesting and yet without population, still a useless number for the discussion. Trees Per Capita by Country in 2014.

If you view the article you can point at a country and get a tree count.

You will find

  • Canada has 8,953 trees per person
  • Brazil has 1,494, I would not have guessed that
  • China has 102,
  • India has 28
  • The United States has 716

A combined measure

Combining per capita numbers can provide some insight. How much CO2 does a tree remove? Apparently 48 pounds per tree per year.

Looking at Canada, production per capita is 15.2 tons or 30,400 pounds per person. Trees absorb 48 x 8953 pounds per person. That absorption is about 430,000 pounds per person. So absorption minus emissions is about 400,000 pounds per person. 200 tons. Seems like the tons per person produced is not the unique and defining variable. Canada as a country reduces CO2 by 200 tons per person per year. Given Canada’s population and 200 tons each absorbed, The world is better off by 200 X 35.5 million in 2014 when the tree count was done 7.10 billion tons absorbed.

Let look at other countries

The United States is 28,800 pounds produced per person and their trees consume 48 x 716 = 34,368 for a net absorption of 5,500 pounds per person. 2.75 tons each.

China produces 7.1 tons per person or 14,200 pounds and their trees absorb 48 x 102 = 4,896 pounds per person. Their net contribution per person is around 9,300 pounds. 4.65 tons each. That’s almost as much as the amount Canada absorbs.

You get the idea. You could work out the others too if you wanted.

Understand systems

Per capita production of C02 is a single variable indicator and the assumption is nothing else matters. That assumption is certainly wrong. All else is obviously not equal. Don’t be fooled. Policy always follows an emotional and easily calculated idea. How dumb do we need to be to accept that sort of thinking.

Reality says tons produced person is meaningless for purposes of policy making unless you add in more variables. When you have more variables, you get better policy. Creativity is in the depth.

Bits to take away

Never accept a single variable item as defining.

Demand politicians and media produce data that fully relates to the issue.

If you want better answers you must be a skeptic.

There are more variables to consider than what appears here, but it makes the point. You should think about what else matters. Ice coverage months. Surface area of lakes maybe. Tundra effects. Sun angles. Plants other than trees. Someone who knows climatology likes knows a dozen or more.

Canada’s approach is the solution to no known problem.

Think first, respond later.

Help me please. If you have found this useful, please subscribe and forward it to others.

I build strategy and fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways and alternate timing to achieve both spending and estate distribution goals. In the past I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning, have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email to

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