The United States is responsible for about a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Now we know exactly where they're coming from, thanks to the powerful new Vulcan mapping system built by Kevin Gurney and colleagues at Purdue University. Vulcan overlays emissions from transportation, power plants and other sources onto a map of the US using a grids with a resolution of 10 kilometers.

When reading the map, it's helpful to know that units are logarithmic, millions of metric tons/year. It may not sound like much, but knowing when and where Americans are pumping CO2 emissions into the atmosphere might help open some eyes to how major the global warming problem is, and what they can do to help.

As a country, the U.S. has responded to the global warming problem with a mixture of apathy and denial (for details on this policy, please direct all correspondence to the White House). But Vulcan's taking the issue to the people. Now you can say, "well, I live in Chicago, how much CO2 am I responsible for?" A look at the national map will give you a good idea (Chicago's red, that's bad), but you can also look at which power plants, factories, or roadways are particularly bad in that area.

It wouldn't be the worst thing if Vulcan compelled you to carpool a little more often, but it's designed to be more than just a guilt trip. Data like this is power. People in the U.S. can go to their town hall/city hall/county officials and say 'look, we're emitting XX tons of CO2 per year, and we need to get this thing under control."

To those who say, "but China's the world's biggest emitter now!" fair enough. For their next trick, Gurney and the Vulcan crew are planning Hestia, which will map the entire globe's emissions in similar detail.

Source: Purdue University via EurekAlert