Doctor’s Orders for CO2 Emissions Reduction

The data says that some of the largest economies are far from meeting their Paris Agreement CO2 reduction targets.   We wanted to tell this story because the ability to credibly commit to sustainable practices will be essential to preventing catastrophic climate changes. Just as many individuals commit to lose weight but fail to follow through, many national regimes to reduce carbon emissions are off track. To make this issue more relatable to our audience, we have created a collection of health reports, resembling the report one would receive at a yearly checkup. This format naturally lends itself to sharing several indicator variables for healthy CO2 reduction along with a set of interventions that the patient (or nation) can take to alter the current trend.

Our group was drawn to study the CO2 data because of its relevance to the future of society. The World Bank’s statistics about CO2 emissions over time speak volumes about many aspects of life around of the world. However, often the scale of the numbers and units of measure are so large and the corresponding forecasts so technical, decision makers around the world struggle to internalize and act upon this information. We saw this as an exciting challenge for data visualization, so we have incorporated creative charts to display CO2 emissions trajectories overlaid with national commitments from the Paris Agreement. Our goal is for the viewer to find the information eye-catching and precise but also relatable.

At first, we were overwhelmed by the span of the data, both in terms of time and number of nations. We decided to reduced our scope to the countries producing a large share of global CO2 emissions. We used Tableau to sort and slice the data to find patterns over the past 10-15 years. With the coverage of the Paris Agreement controversy in the news, we were interested to explore how CO2 levels corresponded to promised reduction.

We found many data visualizations on CO2 emissions, but few were able to relate large numbers into a digestible form that had personal meaning. Many graphics used simple bar and line charts that failed to clearly express the story we were interested to find. We believe that the health report format is an appropriate way to organize statistics to tell a story about the credibility of Paris Agreement commitments to CO2 reduction. If we had more time, we would expand our analysis to more nations and segment CO2 by industry sector in each country in order to tell a more comprehensive story of the global CO2 reduction effort.


By Caroline Liu, Kunyi Li, Yihang Sui, and Arturo Chavez