Cancun Climate Change Conference

Climate change has hardly been on the agenda of global politics recently. It was the global downturn which keeps country leaders busy, and so prospects for the current climate change talks in Cancun (Mexico) to find a successive agreement for the Kyoto protocol appear quite poor. While the Copenhagen summit in 2009 was accompanied by large hope (and failed miserably), there are much lower expectations this year, although still some hope for a significant outcome.
It is interesting to look at the number of delegates which a country is able to send to the talks, as this reveals a lot about the interests of the nations that will succeed in the negotiations. The voices which will be heard are probably the voices of those who send the most delegates, riding roughshod over those nations which have fewer representatives. But the number of delegates may also reflect the importance that climate change has on the political agenda of a country.
During the next days the summit goes into its critical phase, with (perhaps) some world leaders appearing on stage to strengthen their voice – but will those voices from the most vulnerable countries be heard? This is the map of the number of delegates in this year’s climate change talks (data obtained from the UNFCC, the map has been cated in collaboration with UNfair play):

Cartogram / Map of delegates at the 2010 climate change conference in Cancun
(click for larger version)

And there is a lot to discuss in Cancun, not least because developments look bleak when looking at the latest figures on carbon emissions: A year ago on the occasion of the Copenhagen summit I published an updated map on the global carbon emissions. I also did a new map depiction modelling the carbon emissions onto a grid which gave a clearer picture of the geographical variation of these emissions. The figures back then were based on UN data for 2006, so that since than inevitably many inquiries came in asking for a more recent map.
Combining several data sources (mainly UNStats and IWR) and taking the just released Update on CO2 emissions (by Friedlingstein et al published in Nature Geoscience) we now updated our worldmapper base data to a consistent data set which allows us to draw a more recent picture of carbon emissions amid the economic recession. The map reflects the findings in the above mentioned paper: Despite the slowdown in global production, global emission rates continue to rise. The research also confirms a simultaneous development of carbon emissions and GDP, resulting in often only moderate reductions of emissions in most affluent countries and continued increases in many emerging economies. According to their estimates, 2010 may become the year with the highest anthropogenic carbon emissions in history – a new piece of history, just as the Kyoto Protocol. Did anyone say something about an economic crisis? What would the world look like without a crisis? Perhaps the next years will tell us…again. – Here is the updated map and below a short animation showing the slight changes from 2006-2009:

Carbon Emissions 2009:
Cartogram / Map of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions in 2009
(click for larger version)
Animation CO2-Emissions 2006-2009: Continue reading

Geovisualisierung im Zeitalter der Globalisierung

Unlike the post-apocalyptic scenario in infamous Waterworld, what would a world without oceans look like? An oceanless world, so to say, but not like one of the supercontinents that we already had. Instead, more like our today’s continents in the shape of the living space of humankind. In the digital era of cartography, this kind of map is just a few clicks (and much processing time) away, and results in this map curiosity: The image of the world as an oceanless population planet:

gridded population cartogram of an oceanless world
(click for larger version)

The map has been presented first at my talk for the DGfK‘s (German Cartographic Society) colloquium at the University of Applied Sciences in Karlsruhe (a German summary can be found here). In 2013 it has been published as a E&P A feature (see here).
As it was all about visualisation (and maps, of course), I used the Prezi presentation tool to visualise this talk. Here it is:

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What I heard about the world

The Earth at Night as seen by NASAThis iconic composite image of the earth at night of NASA’s Defense Meteorological Satellites Program is the world as we imagine it when the earth is not facing the sun. But this image does not tell the full story of the night’s world, as it suggests that it shows where people are (because there is light). There are actually many people living with little light at night (and perhaps many others wish for some less light, but live in one of the bright spots of this image). Therefore, this image is some kind of fake thing when it comes to the real world at night. The real world at night for the world’s population looks more like the following map, which has been shown on this website before (see here). The reason for showing it again is not only that it has become the header-image of this website, but because the theatre performance What I heard about the World recently incorporated this map in the show’s announcements:

The Earth at Night shown on a World Population Cartogram(click for large image)
See here for an updated and more detailed version of this map

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Global Water Insecurity

Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity is the title of a new study that points out that almost 80% of the world’s population are exposed to some risk of insecure freshwater resources (published in Nature 467, 555-561 (30 September 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature09440). The researchers created a global raster plotting the security level of water resources based on an index of water threats which is discussed in their paper.
Much of the threats in wealthier countries can be counteracted with technology, which explains much less actual insecurity in these countries – but therefore puts biodiversity at risk and resulting in a high price for an inevitable resource of human life.
Talking to BBC News Peter McIntyre from the University of Wisconsin, one of the scientists involved in the study, puts it this way:

“But even in rich parts of the world, it’s not a sensible way to proceed. We could continue to build more dams and exploit deeper and deeper aquifers; but even if you can afford it, it’s not a cost-effective way of doing things.” (Source: BBC)

The unaltered stress level of global freshwater resources as published in the study is presented in this map (Source: Nature):
Global geography of incident threat to human water security and biodiversity / Source: Nature
Accompanied by the map of biodiversity, this gives an interesting insight to the impacts on biodiversity. The impact on human population remains less shown in this depiction but is another crucial issue of the paper. As mentioned before, 80% of the world population are exposed to threatened water resources. By applying their map to the gridded-cartogram technique, the whole impact of these threatened water resources on the population becomes apparent. The 80% at risk become visible, as the map transformation preserves the geographical reference of the underlying grid. The emerging picture is going along quite well with the findings of the study and thus adds another interesting perspective on the issue of threatened water resources in the most populated regions in the world. All data from the study is available on and we used that data to reproject the key maps of the study.
This map shows the “natural” picture of the human water security threat level from the study:

Map of Global Water Insecurity
(click for larger version)

When taking the investments on water technology into account, this picture changes considerably, as the next map shows:

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Gridded Cartograms and the World Population Atlas

For this year’s 46th Annual Summer School of the Society of Cartographers I recalled the making of the World Population Atlas and wrapped all material up for some contributions for the meeting. The outcome are two new posters and a presentation for the delegate’s session:

The World Population Atlas: Showing the Human Shape of the Planet
Poster: The World Population Atlas
Poster: Gridded Population Cartograms: Drawing the Human Shape of the Planet
Poster: Creating Gridded Cartograms

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