CO2 Emission

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are both natural and man-made. Natural sources include oceans, soil, plants, animals and volcanoes while human-related CO2 is emitted through deforestation, burning of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gases and oil for transportation, and energy for commercial, industrial and residential use. Although human-related emissions account for only 5% of the total, they have increased enormously overtime. According to the U.S. EPA, since 1970, global CO2 emissions have increased 90%, the major contributors (78%) being fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes, followed by deforestation, land-use change and agriculture.

While there are many ways to reduce carbon emission, the most effective is to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel. I pride myself for being environmentally conscious – reducing wastes by using energy-efficient products (furnace, light bulbs, etc.), taking public transportation, recycling and reusing things. Yet, using the “carbon footprint,” a calculator provided by the U.S. EPA, my annual footprint for home energy, transportation and household waste totaled 18,131 lbs., compared to the U.S. average of 24,550 lbs. for a single householder. However, this doesn’t include the CO2 emissions related to producing and delivering my daily consumption of certain goods (food, beverages, clothing, etc.) and services (restaurants, local grocer, etc.) including the amount of energy I use both at work (technology equipment, etc.) and commuting there (based on my 12-15 hours spent outside my home each day). This tool also revealed that just switching my washing machine from warm to cold water would cut carbon emission 150 lbs. per year and save me about $12. If you’d like to see your carbon footprint and/or identify ways to reduce consumption and save money, click on the EPA’s calculator here.

The following infographic shows the extent and distribution of CO2 emissions in the world, the U.S. and Illinois, including the carbon footprints of certain products.

Click through to see the enlarged image.


Techniques Used
The above visualization includes 3 types of techniques:

Quantitative Analysis: A bar and pie chart were used to visualize quantitative data to show carbon emissions by various sectors over time and in 2013.

Statistical Analysis (GIS): Spatial analysis included two major techniques. The choropleth maps and classification methods were used to show the distribution of the emission levels globally and for the U.S.

Graphics: Images were obtained from Google and modified using Photoshop graphic design software

Implementing visualization techniques in faculty research
The image of the map reflects the different visualization techniques that might be used to effectively convey data or research conclusions to different types of audiences in various disciplines or industries. Visualizations can help identify existing or emerging trends, spot irregularities or obscure patterns, and even address or solve issues.

Ask us how to visualize your research
For help visualizing your own research findings or seeing if your research lends itself to similar techniques including data acquisition and pre-processing of both quantitative and qualitative data, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at


Author: Nandhini Gulasingam

Nandhini Gulasingam is a Senior Analyst for IT Solutions at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) where she manages GIS, database, web development projects for the SSRC and is developing data visualization techniques for use in the social and behavioral sciences. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Geography where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

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