When we talk about greenhouse gas emissions, it’s usually in the form of one big number (bigger every year) representing the global total. There’s also the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, which knows no borders. When it comes time to talk policy (during UN climate negotiations, for example), national totals for the top emitters will enter the conversation—too often to aid an argument that some other country should be the one to start doing all the work.
Many researchers need to zoom in much further, though, to really understand what’s going on. It’s a problem you can attack from the top—starting with national totals and spreading them across the country in some detail—or from the bottom, utilizing local measurements and emissions records.
A group of researchers led by Arizona State’s Salvi Asefi-Najafabady has produced the highest-resolution map of emissions yet, making the reality of our greenhouse footprint a little more real. It shows exactly where the most work remains to be done as we seek to unshackle ourselves from the fossil fuels that have brought great benefits, for which the bill is finally coming due.