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    Take a Data Visualization Tour of Our Massive Carbon Problem

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    “Picture our city getting drowned in a massive pile of 1-ton carbon pollution orbs” is not an encouragement you expect to usher forth from a sitting mayor of New York City. But Bloomberg is nonetheless asking residents to do exactly that; he released the above data visualization—accompanied by video—to illustrate just how much greenhouse gas pollution the city is emitting into the atmosphere every hour, day, and year.

    And now it’s making the blog-rounds, because, yeah, it’s a pretty effective portrayal of how much carbon the city is spewing out on the regular. And remember, NYC is a lot cleaner than most cities. Suburbs and car-centric metropolises spew more carbon per capita.

    Standing alone, the images are a neat trick; a way to get folks to picture the carbon problem. But they lack scale.

    So let’s put things even further into context. Using a handful of other solid visualizations, we can flesh out the globe’s massive carbon problem. First, let’s go macro. Here’s what carbon pollution looks like ’round the world.

    So it’s pretty much China, the U.S., the E.U.—and everyone else. To get an idea of how that carbon adds up on an hour-by-hour, day-to-day, year-to-year basis, take a look at Bloomberg’s video:

    The above visualization just shows you volume—how much carbon the city is kicking out. It’s supposed to be startling, ‘oh shit’-inducing. But then that’s that. So let’s buckle up, and dive in deeper with Hestia. That’s the project that aspires to quantify exactly where those CO2 emissions are spewing out of; which streets, which factories, which apartment complexes—this is carbon emission visualization by the block.

    Okay, so now we can picture which countries are pumping out the most CO2, how much cities contribute, and precisely where that pollution comes from.

    So what does it all mean? All this carbon creeping into the atmosphere, concentrating, trapping more heat? It means that global temperatures are rising, and fast. This visualization of NASA temperature data should drive the point home:

    All those 1-ton carbon orbs are adding up; the world’s a lot more orange than it used to be.