World first

Back in Spring 2011 we had a call from Colorado. This was followed by an email with a brochure attached. The brochure 'Carbon in our daily lives' included estimated but detailed emission figures associated with the everyday activities of Aspen residents.

Typical figures were given for emissions associated with a heated driveway, a large pond circulation pump, skiing, a health club visit and a bluefin tuna suchi.

The brochure also included per capita emissions for various countries and a global total, together with a quote from Buckminster Fuller: "If the success or failure of this planet, and of human beings, depended on how I am and what I do, How would I be? What would I do?"

We learnt that as well as tackling the fine details, the brochure's author Rick Heede was working on those big deep questions. He was conducting a new and original analysis of the sources of emissions, by extractor, since the start of the industrial revolution, for the whole world. His Carbon Majors project was published yesterday.

Let's hope this gets Rick's work the attention it needs.

Peter Martin

Intergovernmental negotiations have continued to flounder with nation states fighting for their own particular interests. Fossil fuel companies, both state and investor owned, have largely remained in the background with their voices and liabilities unclear. A new lens on the history of emissions, up to the present day, could help bring greater transparency, better informed participation and, perhaps, prompt new ways of working towards solutions to the continuing build up of warming gases in the atmosphere.

So we have been pleased to be asked to help communicate the results of Rick's work which, for the first time, attributes cumulative emissions to 90 'carbon majors'. Fifty of these are investor-owned companies, thirty one are state-owned companies and just nine are countries per se.

As well as specialist audiences who would want to interrogate the data, we were asked to create visuals that could appeal to the general public and, of course, to the journalists who might take up the Carbon Majors story and seek to tell it to their own audiences in their own way.

Drink cans branded with well known names such as Chevron, Exxon, Aramco, BP and Gazprom are sized to show precisely the volume of carbon dioxide gas in a small room as a consequence of their extractions. At the other end of the scale, the emissions attributed to the carbon majors for one year (2010), together with unattributed emissions, are animated at a real-time rate over the course of one minute. And the whole changing picture of entities' emissions from 1850 to today are condensed into a single interactive graphic.