A tale of two maps

The undeniable truth of carbon emissions illustrated

Andrew Zolnai
Nov 1, 2019 · 3 min read

I wrote five years ago in Anthropocene Review that map stories provide dynamic visualisations and broaden factually based public understanding. LSE’s Leslie Sklair recently asked me to produce carbon emission snapshots for an upcoming book. I had already mapped CDIAC’s CO2 emissions since 1751, I updated with BP Stat. Review current data, and I created in Esri web mapping platform some dynamic counterparts to Carbon Atlas’ static maps.

I wrote up on my pro channel here techniques how to style then to project Total and perCapita CO2 emissions by country and over time. I simply want to show now the stunning evidence of increased CO2 emissions through simple dynamic maps that you can play at your leisure.

CO2 emissions by country


Let’s show the growth of per Capita (cyan) and Total CO2 (magenta) by country, from smallest to largest carbon, not geographic footprint. Note that it may look as increasing emissions over time, since our brain is trained to see time sequences. But for that, the historic animation is shown below.

You can easily see where the largest CO2 emitters are. TotalCO2 is the total output by country, that is thus skewed by its geographic and population size. perCapita mitigates that by factoring population. And point symbols per country mitigates the enormous variations in geographic extent.

CO2 emissions over time


This shows the growth of perCapita (cyan) and Total CO2 (magenta) by country over time since 1750 — roughly the onset of the Industrial Revolution — with same distinction as above for Total & perCapita CO2 on country spots.

Non geographic posting

And in case the bubble maps don’t convince, here are the raw numbers: The exponential rise in TotalCO2 is clear, as is the jump in perCapitaCO2.

Note on PerCapita stats: world population data collated only after 1950, and the two dips reflect population data at bottom from World Bank stats.

Don’t you think, regardless, that bubble maps above say it all? The link between CO2 emissions, global warming and climate change is discussed elsewhere… but these maps and data illustrate that this is real!

This is in memory of Hans Rosling (1948–2017) who popularised bubble graphs in social issues. His legacy lives in Gapminder as well as bubble maps.

Footnote: many climate deniers cite this report: Carbon Dioxide Fertilization Greening Earth, Study Finds, meaning that CO2 emissions are good for us. They fail to quote the last two paragraphs: while detection is measured, not only are effects limited but also they’re models.

They also fail to quote this subsequent report: Human Activity in China and India Dominates the Greening of Earth, NASA Study Shows. Again the last two paragraphs say that greening is some areas doesn’t offset vegetation loss elsewhere, and that we are resilient in addressing these.

Update 1: my next post illustrates some complexities of climate change science

Update 2: @gregcocks posted this on Linkedin: Satellites are key to monitoring ocean carbon

Update 3: this just in… New report quantifies Earth’s immense carbon reserves

" Annual carbon emissions from human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, were found to be 40 to 100 times greater than overall volcanic emissions."

Andrew Zolnai

Personal posts on Current Affairs and World Views

Andrew Zolnai

Written by

Citizen of the World, geologist, entrepreneur and volunteered geographer.

Andrew Zolnai

Personal posts on Current Affairs and World Views

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