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Explore Changing Global Emissions through Interactive Maps

While heads of states get ready to meet at the United Nations Climate Summit tomorrow, global emissions are higher than any point in history and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are increasing faster than the previous 30 years.

The interactive map below reveals how carbon dioxide emissions are distributed globally and how they’ve changed in the last 160 years.

   ⇧ Press play to see the rise of carbon dioxide emissions over the last 160 years.

The map is based on WRI’s recently updated CAIT 2.0 data, now published on the Google Public Data Explorer. CAIT 2.0 provides easy, free access to a wealth of global emissions data. Through CAIT 2.0 and Google Public Data Explorer, users can explore the history of emissions in a much more interactive way, through maps and other dynamic charts.

The map shows us how fast the major emitters changed over the last few decades. For more than 100 years since the Industrial Revolution, emissions were dominated by the West. Over the last two decades, however, Asia’s emissions rapidly caught up, with China becoming the world’s largest emitter in 2005.

Meanwhile, many Western countries—such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany—were able to stabilize their absolute and per capita carbon emissions, albeit on a high level. The map below shows a very different picture for per capita emissions, in which industrialized countries still dominate the emissions landscape. However, even in this case, many developing countries are rapidly increasing their per capita emissions.

   ⇧ Press play to see the change of per capita emissions in the last 50 years.

An Opportunity for Action

The data underscores that to turn around the trend of rising emissions—and make the carbon bubbles shrink again—actors from business, government, and civil society will need to elevate climate change on the global agenda and set the stage for local, national, and international progress. The United Nations Climate Summit 2014 is a unique chance for world leaders to commit to bold, transformative climate action.


This is an awesome resource. Thank you! Watching the picture change over time gives great insight into the development of the problem and the imperative for dynamic action.

Thanks for reading, Mark! You may want to check out our Climate Insights blog series for more data visualizations.

Thanks very much Sarah.

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