Paulina Urbanska’s striking 2011 data visualization of the causes and solutions to carbon dioxide emissions is ambitious but imperfect. The represented datasets are clearly labeled on the top ‘axis’. There is a mix of quantitative and qualitative data for the causes and effects. These include CO2 emissions by continents/countries and proposed solutions accompanied by the potential carbon dioxide savings per inhabitant. This visualization is arguably intended for a typical educated adult civilian, as evidenced by the balance of mild technical jargon such as ‘photosynthesis’ and ‘acid rain’ with humbly practical solutions that include turning off lights at night.
By framing the issue on a per-inhabitant rather than global basis, the presentation is a personal call to action to reduce one’s CO2 footprint by following some of the solutions. Clear, bold visual cues such as line thickness and font size highlight continents and countries that produce a disproportionately high amount of emissions, as well as particularly impactful solutions. However, between the two colored flows, which are informative on their own, is a list of pollution effects that does not visually connect to either flow sub-visualization. A potential connection between them that could have been highlighted is the particular countries for which the solutions are most relevant. For example, the recommendation to reduce car speed would be more applicable to the car-dense United States than Algeria. As it stands, the two colored flows are not well linked story-wise, which impairs the effectiveness of an otherwise informative and visually compelling data presentation.