The East isn't red; it's polluted

Track the migration of carbon dioxide emissions via Google Maps. Hint: It's China-bound

Published November 16, 2009 11:29PM (EST)

Two researchers at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland get this week's HTWW award for coolest use of Google Maps. (Found via Globalisation and the Environment.)

Jean-Marie Grether and Nicole A. Mathys have devised a methodology that allows them to track the physical global "center of gravity" of various phenomena, and used it track to carbon dioxide emissions over the last 30 years.

As one might guess, in 1970, the center of Co2 emissions gravity was located between Europe and the United States, just off the coast of Iceland. Since then it has moved steadily to the east, toward Asia. More troublingly, the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are moving is faster than the rate at which the center of GDP growth is moving, suggesting that "Asian production is getting more CO2 intensive than Western production." That's not good news, because it means that industrial production is getting less efficient and worse for the environment as it migrates to Asia.

A side note: The satellite photos of the globe with their little pink and yellow balloons superimposed on the planet emphasize, quite strongly, the truth of North-South relations, at least insofar as industrial production is concerned. Because the center of gravity may be moving on the East-West axis at a brisk pace, but it's going absolutely nowhere on the North-South axis. If I lived in the South, I'd know whom to blame for climate change.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Asia China Global Warming How The World Works