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The Breathing Earth simulation
Welcome to Breathing Earth. This real-time simulation displays the CO2 emissions of every country in the world, as well as their birth and death rates.
Please remember that this real time simulation is just that: a simulation. Although the CO2 emission, birth rate and death rate data used in Breathing Earth comes from reputable sources, data that measures things on such a massive scale can never be 100% accurate. Please note however that the CO2 emission levels shown here are much more likely to be too low than they are to be too high.
The Environment and Climate Change
Global warming (aka climate change) is almost without a doubt the most important issue to face our generation, and quite possibly any generation in history. The worldwide scientific community is virtually unanimous in its agreement that global warming is happening, that it’s our fault, and that our chance to stop it is slipping away. If we let it get out of our control, the consequences – which will already begin occuring in most of our lifetimes – will be catastrophic. Just some of the consequences that can be reasonably expected are rising sea levels, more frequent and more severe natural disasters, large-scale food and water shortages, plagues, massive species extinctions, unprecendented numbers of refugees, intensified ethnic and political tensions, and a global economic depression the likes of which no one has ever seen.
The situation is still within our grasp, but we must act now, we must act strongly, and we must act together. Individuals, companies, and governments across the globe must each do what they can to reverse climate change. We will never get a second chance.
What can I do?
The good news is that there are plenty of things that we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. The key word is reduce. We can greatly lessen our impact on climate change by using the planet’s resources more responsibly. There are many things we can reduce, and many ways we can reduce them, but three of the major ones are: reduce the amount of animal products you consume (meat, dairy, eggs, leather, etc.), reduce the amount of fuel you use (car, air travel, etc.), and reduce the amount of electricity you use. There are plenty of good resources on the web. I encourage you to so your own research, though you might find some of the links below to be useful.
More climate change info?
Footprint Network footprint calculator – Figure out your own ecological footprint.
www.350.org – An international campaign building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis.
Where does the data come from?
Birth and death rates: 2008 estimates, from the CIA World Factbook
Population: Data is based on July 2008 estimates from the CIA World Factbook. When Breathing Earth is started, it uses each country’s birth and death rates to calculate how populations have changed since July 2008, and adjusts its figures accordingly. It continues adjusting the various population figures as you watch it, each time a person is born or a person dies.
CO2 emission rates: 2006 figures from the United Nations Statistics Division. These are the most up-to-date figures as of May 2010. Collating CO2 emissions data for every country on Earth, representing the same time period, is undoubtedly a massive and very complex task that relies on the availability of many other sets of data. This probably explains why the most recent CO2 emissions data available is from 2006.
CO2 emission rates from four years earlier: When Breathing Earth was first built, it used 2002 figures, also from the United Nations Statistics Division. When you hover your mouse over a country, Breathing Earth compares the 2002 and 2006 figures and indicates whether that country’s CO2 emissions have increased or decreased in that time, using the red or green arrow that appears near the bottom-left.
There was an unavailability of a portion of the data for a few of the tinier countries (eg. Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Lesotho). In such cases, I made estimates based on their population, economy, and the data of their relevant neighbours. In all such cases, the figures were so low that even had my estimates been wildly inaccurate, the effect on the simulation would have been negligible.
CO2 emissions: per country or per capita?
Some people ask why Breathing Earth focuses on the CO2 emissions per country, rather than per capita. After all, wouldn’t the per capita rates give a better indication of who is being most wasteful? For example, the citizens of Australia, Kuwait and Luxembourg are among the world’s worst polluters, yet their CO2 emissions aren’t very prominent on Breathing Earth because of those countries’ relatively low populations.
The fact of the matter, however, is that what is most important is how many c02 emissions there are from the perspective of Planet Earth. Although some countries are clearly much worse polluters than others, the problem is ultimately a global one that humans of various nationalities have caused, and that humans of various nationalities must work together to solve.
One thing must surely be obvious though: The problem is largely a Western one. It is the Western countries who are leading the way in CO2 emissions, and when non-Western countries have high CO2 emission rates themselves, it’s usually because they are adopting Western habits. Since we, the West, have been a leading cause of the CO2 emissions problem, surely it is we who must step up and be the leaders in the solution.
Thanks for visiting.