John Metcalfe in Wired:
If you want an unusual but punchy telling of the world’s explosion of climate-warping gases, look no further than this visualization of CO2 levels over the past centuries soaring like skyscrapers into space. “2A Brief History of CO2 Emissions” portrays the cumulative amount of this common greenhouse gas that humans have produced since the mid-1700s. It also projects to the end of the 21st century to show what might happen if the world disregards the Paris Agreement, an ambitious effort to limit warming that 200 countries signed onto in 2015. (President Donald Trump still wants to renege on it.) At this point, the CO2-plagued atmosphere could see jumps in average temperature as high as 6 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, the animation’s narrator warns, displaying a model of Earth looking less like planet than porcupine. “We wanted to show where and when CO2 was emitted in the last 250 years—and might be emitted in the coming 80 years if no climate action is taken,” emails Boris Mueller, a creator of the viz along with designer Julian Braun and others at Germany’s University of Applied Sciences Potsdam and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “By visualizing the global distribution and the local amount of cumulated CO2, we were able to create a strong image that demonstrates very clearly the dominant CO2-emitting regions and time spans.”
The visualization begins with a small, white lump growing on London around 1760—the start of the Industrial Revolution. More white dots quickly appear throughout Europe, rising prominently in Paris and Brussels in the mid-1800s, then throughout Asia and the US, where in the early 1900s emissions skyrocket in the New York region, Chicago, and Southern California.