This week, heads of state from around the world met at a UN climate summit hosted by Ban-Ki Moon, and the U.S. promised to put climate change “front and center” of American diplomacy. To illustrate the geopolitics of climate change, the Guardian has put together an in-depth interactive map that elegantly visualizes which countries contribute the most to carbon emissions, both currently and historically, and which are the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. In many cases, the countries suffering the most from carbon-related climate change have the least power to stop it, since they aren’t the ones emitting the most.
As you click on various categories, the sizes of the countries change to reveal their proportional responsibility when it comes to fossil fuel extraction, CO2 emissions, and other measures, as well as vulnerability in terms of rising sea levels, poverty, and population. The map illustrates how China’s emissions have grown exponentially–it has burned more than 9.99 billion tons of fossil fuels in the past year, the most of any nation. The United States is a close second, having burned more than 5.23 billion tons.
It also starkly visualizes how the populations most at risk for being displaced or harmed by climate change don’t correspond with those most responsible for causing it. While the United States is one of the biggest polluters, in terms of the number of people suffering from droughts, floods or extreme temperatures in 2009, it ranks 20th out of 213. Another big polluter, Germany, ranking 6th in the world for consumption, is at much lower risk–ranking 84th–than many countries that consume far less. The population of Ethiopia, on the other hand, is at very high risk, ranking 4th out of 213 countries, but consumes a comparatively small amount of fossil fuels–ranking 109th out of 213.
The trippy, colorful map showing countries ballooning in and out is a powerful visualization of an inconvenient truth: some of the smallest contributors to climate change are facing the greatest risk from its consequences.
Head over to the [i]Guardian[/i] to play around with the map.