Data geek-out: slick Google graphs of world stats

26 Nov 2009

In looking for how stats on how much of Singapore’s electricity goes to air-conditioning (the story behind that is to come in the next couple of days), I ran across an awesome feature on Google that I didn’t know about before.

Google has tons of public data loaded up (earlier this month they added a bunch of World Bank data), and they have a really nice interface for making your own graphs, like the one below of CO2 emissions per person over the past few decades. For this chart, I included the countries I’ve lived in:

I was surprised by how stable the CO2 emissions per person have been over decades. But there are some interesting shifts there too. It seems that in the U.S., the post-WWII boom continued up to the early 1970s, with people driving huge cars and buying bigger houses. Then things went cattywampus during the oil shocks of the 70s, with big swings in emissions (and energy use, as you can see below) per person.

In the late 1970s it looks like the U.S. was making progress in cutting emissions and energy use, with consistent drops from the late 70s to early 80s. Then this reversed through the 80s, canceling out most of that low-energy, low-emissions trend. But then since the early 1990s, emissions and energy use per person have been remarkably stable.

That might sound like good news, but it’s not, because this is the same period when countries around the world starting worrying about climate change and began making pledges to cut emissions. But as you can see, emissions per person have stayed remarkably constant worldwide, even as the population has more than doubled over that period (link to a Google graph of population).

Google’s also got data for 17 different “world development indicators” from the World Bank loaded up. (See this page for a list of all the indicators; to bring them up in a Google search, the trick is to search for an indicator—say, “energy use per capita” and then add a country’s name. Only when you add in a country does it seem to trigger Google to put its public data listings at the top of the search results.)

Here’s another one—energy use per capita:


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »