Fun with Maps

Lisa MooreThis post is by Lisa Moore, Ph.D., a scientist in the Climate and Air program at Environmental Defense.

Here’s an interesting way to look at greenhouse gas emissions. The WorldMapper project has assembled hundreds of global maps in which nations are resized according to different variables – for example, total population and carbon emissions:

WordMapper - Population
From WorldMapper. Reproduced with permission.

WorldMapper - Emissions
From WorldMapper. Reproduced with permission.

Though the maps are based on data from five years ago or more, they’re still quite enlightening. These two maps together show the huge disparities in per capita emissions.

Now compare the fossil fuel emissions map to one depicting forest loss:

WorldMapper - Deforestation
From WorldMapper. Reproduced with permission.

The map of forest loss is by area rather than emissions, but still makes the point that in many developing countries, the main source of greenhouse gas emissions is from deforestation. That’s why it’s so important to give tropical forest nations incentives to stop cutting down forests through access to the global carbon market (an approach we call compensated reduction).

Our resident map expert, Peter Black, said that these types of maps, called "cartograms", also can be prepared using "graduated color". He put together a quick demonstration – the darker the color, the higher the number.

WorldMapper has maps on a wide variety of topics – pollution, natural resources, fuel, and much more. Many offer stark, surprising, and thought-provoking comparisons. Take a look!

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