The climate crisis requires nations to achieve human well-being with low national levels of carbon emissions. Countries vary from one another dramatically in how effectively they convert resources into well-being, and some nations with low levels of emissions have relatively high objective and subjective well-being. We identify urgent research and policy agendas for four groups of countries with either low or high emissions and well-being indicators. Least studied are those with low well-being and high emissions. Understanding social and political barriers to switching from high-carbon to lower-carbon modes of production and consumption, and ways to overcome them, will be fundamental.