CO2 Emissions and Global Literacy
Is there a relationship bwteeen CO2 emissions and global literacy? Yes!

The figure below presents two centuries of annual fossil fuel consumption (an analog for CO2 emissions) and global literacy data, which show illiteracy declining as a function of fossil fuel consumption. As seen there, for most of the first hundred years of the record, the vast majority of the population older than 15 was unable to read and write; in 1820 only one out of every ten persons older than 15 years was literate. By 1930 the literate portion of this population jumped to one-third. Fast forward to the present and 4.6 billion out of the 5.4 billion persons on earth today over the age of 15 can read and write. Contrast that to two centuries ago when there were less than 100 million who shared these skills.

Thankfully, as nations have utilized fossil energy to industrialize, their populations have spent less time performing labors required of sustenance living and more time in the classroom becoming literate and gaining an education. And that is a CO2 benefit worth celebrating!


Figure 1. Two-century trend in global illiteracy and fossil fuel consumption data.