Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

1 minute read


These Crazy Maps Show The Unequal Cause And Effect Of Climate Change

By distorting the world’s countries based on different environmental and economic indicators, we can see an amazingly clear picture of how emissions, resources, and poverty all combine.

  • <p>These are the world’s countries by area. Looks familiar.</p>
  • <p>Now this is the map adjusted for population.</p>
  • <p>And here is consumption.</p>
  • <p>This is by emissions.</p>
  • <p>Emissions change (red means higher growth).</p>
  • <p>Resources.</p>
  • <p>This shows extractions of resources from the Earth. Note how large the Middle East gets (and Venezuela)</p>
  • <p>GDP per capita.</p>
  • <p>GDP.</p>
  • <p>Poverty.</p>
  • <p>Sea level.</p>
  • 01 /11

    These are the world’s countries by area. Looks familiar.

  • 02 /11

    Now this is the map adjusted for population.

  • 03 /11

    And here is consumption.

  • 04 /11

    This is by emissions.

  • 05 /11

    Emissions change (red means higher growth).

  • 06 /11


  • 07 /11

    This shows extractions of resources from the Earth. Note how large the Middle East gets (and Venezuela)

  • 08 /11

    GDP per capita.

  • 09 /11


  • 10 /11


  • 11 /11

    Sea level.

Climate change is a fundamentally unfair phenomenon. For one thing, the countries that have contributed most to atmospheric build-ups of CO2 won’t bear the brunt of the consequences. For another, the people who are least equipped to deal with climate shocks—through adaption and health care services—are likely to be most vulnerable. It’s an unequal world.

To get an immediate graphical sense of this, take a look at these excellent cartograms—maps that are distorted to reflect certain data. See, for example, the difference when you compare a standard world map (or ones resized for population or wealth), and then for historical emissions (1850–2007), or consumption (all products and services). Or the difference between countries’ wealth and the risks their people face. (See all the data sources here).

The maps were created by Duncan Clark and Robin Houston, two British programmers from an organization called Kiln. They developed the idea for the World Bank’s Apps for Climate challenge, held last year. The eventual winner was Ecofacts, an app developed in Argentina.

"We wanted to show that responsibility for climate change isn’t just about current national emissions," says Clark. "It’s also about the extraction and export of fossil fuels, the consumption of imported goods made using those fuels, and emissions from previous centuries that are still in the air. Each of those metrics gives a different but valid view on how responsible each nation is for causing the problem."