The folks over at Google and the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat have created a greenhouse gas map that gives all those facts and figures swirling around the climate change debate a little visual context.
Here's how the map works. Users can get an overall global view showing changes in emissions between 1990, when data first started being collected, to 2006. Countries are color-coded -- green signals a decrease, purple means an increase in emissions.
From there, users can look up specific countries and map out any combination of emissions categories or types of greenhouse gases.
It's in these details where the map provides real value. Not that the bird's eye view of global emissions isn't nifty. But the ability to go beyond a color-coded map and dig into the figures by year, country and sector gives a much clearer view of what's happening out there.
For example, Sweden total emissions grew 110 percent between 1990 and 2006, making it the worst emitter. The United States grew 14 percent, the European Union shows a 10 percent decrease and Russia shows a 29 percent decrease in the same time period.
But isolate the year, say 2006, and everything changes. Russia now becomes one of the worst emitters, behind only the European Union and the United States.
The Google map mash-up, which shows greenhouse gas emissions generated by industrialized countries is certainly timely. The greenhouse gas map release comes just a few months before leaders from more than 150 countries will attempt to hash out a new climate change agreement during the UN's Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
This isn't the only Google meets the environment map out there. BNET blogger Chris Morrison wrote about Google's U.S. carbon emissions map earlier this year.
The United Nations Environment Program also uses Google Earth to show environmental changes over time. And as Fast Company notes, the National Resources Defense Council launched a Google Earth mash-up in April to show alternative energy installers and where they might have legal trouble.
There's no doubt Google's mapping tools are handy. But the organizations clamoring to use Google Earth and other Google map mash-upshave figured how seeing something can be far more persausive than handing out a bunch of numbers.