DATA VISUALIZATION  6•10•13

VISUALIZING CARBON

For Antony Turner, pictures make a story come alive—and in the climate change story, one of the main characters is invisible. In 2009, together with artist/scientist Adam Nieman, he founded Carbon Visuals to help people “see” the carbon dioxide that’s trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere.

(Above) In 2010, New York City emitted 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. With a single day’s CO2 emissions, the city “buries” the Empire State Building with 149,903 ten-meter-diameter spheres, each containing one metric ton of the gas.

Left: A street-level view shows the scale of the one-metric-ton spheres, assuming the CO2 gas is held at standard pressure. New York City emitted one sphere’s worth of carbon dioxide every 0.58 seconds in 2010.
Right: A single hour of the city’s CO2 emissions amounts to 6,204 metric tons.

Carbon Canyons. With funding from the Environmental Defense Fund, Carbon Visuals generated a 3-D map of greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings in New York City. They used publicly available energy data to show the actual volume of CO2 added to the atmosphere by individual buildings. The data are available to download and explore in Google Earth.

Carbon Quilt. The Carbon Visuals team imagined what it would look like if global CO2 emissions formed a uniform layer over the surface of the earth. One day’s worth of emissions would make a layer the thickness of a piece of paper (70 microns), while one year of carbon output would blanket the planet in a 31-millimeter-thick layer. Different “patches” of the quilt can be highlighted to represent emissions from an entire industrial sector to an individual car.

All images ©Carbon Visuals

This article originally appeared in Conservation magazine

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