The journey of a carbon atom

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One of the problems with the greenhouses gases is that they are not visible. The atmosphere of our planet is like a living sea, that has been carefully manufactured by the Earth trough millions of years. Now we humans and our way of life, haven’t taken long to break the subtle balance, specially during the past hundred years. Yesterday afternoon we had an impressive presentation on how to visualise the carbon emissions of the city of New York, trough modern graphics the incredible amount of CO2 produce in a day, a month and a year. Have a look, so far in just few weeks have had more than 30 thousand views!
New York carbon emissions in real time

In 2010 (the latest year for which we had data) New York City added 54 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (equivalent) to the atmosphere, but that number means little to most people because few of us have a sense of scale for atmospheric pollution.

Carbon Visuals ( and the Environmental Defense Fund wanted to make those emissions feel a bit more real – the total emissions and the rate of emission. Designed to engage the ‘person on the street’, this version is exploratory and still work in progress.

NYC carbon footprint:

54,349,650 million tons a year = 148,903 tons a day = 6,204 tons an hour = 1.72 tons a second

At standard pressure and 59 °F a metric ton of carbon dioxide gas would fill a sphere 33 feet across (density of CO₂ = 1.87 kg/m³: If this is how New York’s emissions actually emerged we would see one of these spheres emerge every 0.58 seconds.

Emissions in 2010 were 12% less than 2005 emissions. The City of New York is on track to reduce emissions by 30% by 2017 – an ambitious target.

For a set of stills from this movie, see:

For more information see:


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