Posted by: Peter Black | January 14, 2009

What Our CO2 Emissions Could Be

Global CO2 Emissions Scenarios: 2008-2050
Emissions Reductions Scenario versus Business as Usual
Map 1 (Interactive):
Global Emissions:2008-2050Projected CO2 Emissions:2008-2050

Give us 40 or so years, and we’ll cut global emissions by half, which is enough, most scientists think, to avert the dangerous climate change staring us down if we ignore the problem.

On this map the red circle outlines represent a continuation of current emission trends without much in the way of reductions.

The blue filled in circles show how a strong reduction strategy (especially in the U.S. and the E.U.) can halve the overall global emissions by 2050. Use the time slider on the top left of this map to scroll through the future. Here is the methodology used to create the map.

We could use your help refining this map. For example, we haven’t found a data set that allows us to separate out more countries over this time period, in both the business as usual and reductions scenarios. If you have any suggestions or comments, please leave a comment!

Pop Quiz: Why would we project that in 2050, the “business as usual” model for deforestation isn’t very different from the “emissions reduction”?



  1. Great map, and very clear and compelling. One slightly weird thing is the 3 circles at the bottom. It seems like the two to the right are a totals for nations too small to be shown on the map, e.g., that that plus the ones shown on the map is the total of worldwide global emsissions, but that the one on the left is about deforestation, so does it overlap the worldwide total, or is on a different scale or something? Or are deforestation emissions also part of the total, but can’t be assigned to particular regions or countries? A little clarity on that would be good. Great work!

    Great question Jeremy! The deforestation data is separate from the ‘other developed nations’ and ‘other developing nations’ data. Those dots represent CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning alone, without deforestation. However, they all add up to the global total, and as such are not double counted. We’re hoping some quality projections come out of the woodwork from this for each and every country in the world, which I think could be quite compelling in a gross CO2 emissions as well as a per-capita set up. – Peter

  2. Peter: Why can’t you and ED recognize that we have a controllable source of GHG emissions running wild right now due to the way organic and sewage wastes are presently handled? The pyrolysis process, which I have detailed in many e-mails to various ED staff people and in Green Room comments, would convert about 50 % of the carbon in those messes to inert charcoal. AND that process would destroy all germs drugs and almost all toxics in the messes greatly reducing problems with their escaping to pollute water supplies. To emphasize this point, my sanitation district in a recent report indicated that TRICLOSAN, a bactericide in soaps and toothpaste to stop mouth and body odors, was not being trapped in some sewage operations to be in the discharges causing damage to microbiota near the outflows.
    I ask anyone reading this: Isn’t it much more important to get control of GHG emissions instead of mapping them? Dr. James Singmaster

  3. Question! I logged onto your map and got a blank box with a red cross in the upper left hand corner but no picture.
    Can you tell me how to access the map without getting this empty box???

    Hi Elly, have you downloaded the latest adobe flash player? If not, try downloading it here: and then retry the map!

  4. I’m with Dr. Singmaster: There are many things we could actually DO to reduce GHG emissions. He wants pyrolisis. I want to convert wastewater to ethanol through cattail-willow swamps. I want to see a massive conversion from industrial agriculture to local, organic, sustainable, permaculture agriculture.

    There’s really a lot to do.

  5. I read a book called The Humanure Handbook by Peter Jenkins. It made sustainable sense for our ecological problems concerning our ways of dealing with sewage and the culture’s use of fertilizers that are ecologically non sustainable. I have seen fairly large applications of composting in this method that indicate the possibilities to bypass the many problems we create with adding water to human waste.
    Have a good read— It could change the world.

    • Thanks Eric for writing this note. I was a user of Peter Jenkins’ formula of humanure when I was in Arizona.
      Regards, Sanu Kaji, Foundation for Sustainable Technologies (FoST)
      Kathmandu, Nepal

  6. Answer to the pop-quiz: is it because deforestation will naturally drop down from limited resources? It’s only about 25 more years until the Amazon is gone?

    Good guess, but we project agricultural expansion to slow in the tropics as a result of higher productivity on existing areas…so hopefully tropical forest countries can keep the majority of their forests intact! This is no given, and there are many reasons to be vigilant, but there is hope for the integrity of tropical forests.

    – Peter

  7. Assuming that the right data are available, is it possible to produce similar maps scaled down to local commmunity (such as city) level? That could be a great help to groups that are working on community-wide plans to measure and target emissions reductions over a period of years.

    Robert, the data exists at the county level for the US, though only for existing conditions. Folks are working on this here at EDF and elsewhere…so keep posted for future updates

    – Peter

  8. We have plenty of evidence that the climate has already changed. We must reverse this change by drastically reducing our carbon dioxide emissions. We need to drastically reduce our population as well as reduce our population’s emissions of carbon dioxide.
    We are running out of planet to waste.

  9. Cool map but just like most AGW information, it’s all iffy. Nearly every thing I read in the media expresses the affects of global warming in terms of “could” or “if”. All that does is sensationalize, propagandize and induce fear. But then, perhaps that’s the purpose. Fearful people don’t ask a lot of questions, they just demand the government take care of them. I think it’s a shame that the AGW movement has co-opted the stage on global warming issues. There never has been a real debate of the science and liberal politicians and their environmentalist co-conspirators are determined to stifle debate. I’m wondering what you all are afraid of. Reasonable people welcome the truth and scientists usually thrive on debate and discussion of scientific issues. Actually, I think I know what your afraid of – the truth and the damage it will cause to your movement to purify mother earth. You can graph out CO2 emissions until you’re blue in the face but it’s not enough to dispute the fact that global temperatures are declining in the face of rising CO2. What kind of correlation is that?

    OK, start blasting away.

    No blasting necessary. You’re entitled to your opinion. I happen to disagree with your stance. That happens sometimes between rational people.
    – Peter

  10. […]… also Juliette Jowet shows us what the Met Office in Hadley UK predicts for temperature scenarios under differing rates of emissions reduction, or in the worst case, if none are made at all, especially by 2100, and discusses the tundra, siberia , ocean, methane and ice sheet melting tipping point, and which levels of reductions are absolutely necessary.… I recommend 3% cuts per year in the US and EU starting in 2010… but will it happen. They do not discuss the ocean acidification issue. […]

  11. Make filch the smoke of the industrial units and exhaust gases of cars in solutions of lime (training of CaCO3) is the best solution to get rid of the excess of carbon dioxide. Then to recycle the lime CaO, there is a decarbonation with funeral of CO2 in coats(layers) or subterranean waters

  12. Yesterday a research study stated that even if we stop carbon emmissions today. The atmosphereic carbon will still be irreversable for a 1000 years. Now that is a problem.

  13. Peter,

    Is there a peer-reviewed study that correlates CO2 with temperature? And, are there any studies confirming such correlation?

    I’d recommend checking out the Real Climate blog, where they discuss the science much more than I do on this blog, whose purpsoe is to demonstrate relevant topics via maps. Follow this link for more:

  14. There is not enough money in the world to slow down, much less stop, the rape of the land of the world from really , really poor people living in the places that make a difference i.e.. the congo , south america, new zealand, china, or any place else you have old growth and desirable natural resources. We have to figure out how to satisfy lust of profit before anything else.

  15. Peter,
    I assume from your response that you don’t know of any such studies and that you are just blindly throwing up information on CO2. How can you responsibly post a CO2 map as relevant when you don’t even know the correlation between CO2 and temperature increases? Sounds more propagandistic than scientific. I also noticed some additional propaganda in your explanation above when you stated “most scientists think” without defining how many scientists this is. The link provided adds no clarity. In fact, the link uses some propaganda of its own by insinuating that a heat wave in Greece is attributable to global warming. When people on the opposite side of AGW suggest that this year’s cold weather in the US indicates no global warming, the AGW folks are quick to point out that “weather is not climate”. I guess this principle only works one way. Why do beleive/think CO2 causes global warming?

    CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It’s relationship with global temperature is that it acts as an amplifier relative to solar radiation. Humanity’s ability to affect the climatic system is largely based upon our carbon dioxide emissions via fossil fuel burning and deforestation. Therefore, a map showing policy options regarding CO2 emissions is entirely relevant and logical.

    As for your point about what most scientists think, in the original post I included a link to the news story about a survey. Here’s what the survey said: 97% of published climatologists, those with the highest level of expertise in this arena, think that humans are driving climate change:

    CO2 amplifies warming as a greenhouse gas. We know for a fact that the earth is warming. We also know that our co2 emissions have exponentially increased. Lastly, we know that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has likewise exponentially increased.

    As much as I’d like to debate the finer points of AGW theory with you CL, I doubt my points will have much efficacy. Besides, this blog’s purpose is not to debate the theory with you: there are countless places to do that on the web. Shall we move on?

  16. A great map. I like the way it relates national/regional carbon budgets to global emmissions levels.

    I wonder if it would be possible to link it on forwards and backwards to what is happening to individual per capita carbon budgets in each region and to atmospheric carbon concentrations over time – i.e. this is the stuff that really matters if you want to take this debate to ordinary people – are the targets enough to achieve climate safety? Is the burden sharing fair? PB:

    Thanks for the comment Maya. I agree, a per-capita map would be beneficial. Perhaps we can take that on fairly soon…

    Also it would be great to be able to have something like this that could compare different proposals and show the gap between what needs to be and what is currently on the table (globally). That would be a really powerful tool to close the science-policy-public debate gap.

    It will be interesting to see what comes out of Copenhagen. If there are competing proposals, we may be able to map them, provided there’s adequate data.

  17. Nice piece of work! I couldn’t tell if the circles represent the numbers by their area or by their diameter. Edward Tufte in his famous book on graphics (The Visual Display of Quantitative Information) says that representing a number by the diameter of a circle is misleading, at best. I hope you didn’t do that.

  18. Warren, We used the relative areas to show represent the numbers…heeding Tufte’s visual display of quantitative information.



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