FV #19 - What's Your Footprint?

This visual does a great job of showing how presentation of statistics matters...and how easy it can be to "spin" the data to great effect.  It provides two different views of looking at Carbon Emissions and the results are pretty stunning. 

click image for larger version.  This has my annotations on it.  Click here to view the original

You'll observe that if you look at this by total emissions, major industrialized countries like the USA, China, India, Japan and Russia dominate.  However, when you look at emissions per capita, a different view appears.   For one, island nations (represented in blues) begin to appear in a major way where they were almost invisible before (Africa remains virtually non existent in both).  Also, major oil producers (mostly in red) appear much larger.  However, to me, the most striking observation was how India, China and the USA shrink down when you look at the per capita numbers.  I also thought Canada was interesting... didn't realize they had such a carbon footprint (I always think of them as totally green).

This visual totally changes the answer to "who has the biggest carbon footprint?" 

I think showing and discussing visuals like this with students has a lot of value and should promote great discussion.  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What do you observe in this visual?
  • What is the topic/purpose of the visual?
  • What is the data source?  Is it a legitimate source?
  • What's the purpose of the colors?
  • Why are island countries more pronounced on the right side?
  • Who might want to promote the left/right side of the chart?
  • What's up with Africa?

Finally, from a graphics standpoint, this is also a pretty striking example of how to do it.