Photo: Matthew GibbonsI've been thinking about a major online project which I simply don't have the time, resources, or grant-writing energy to do. It would be an interactive data site presenting a global map of greenhouse gas emissions and other activities contributing to climate change. There is, as far as I know, only this site - CARMA - that attempts to do this. The site, UNdata, adds a bit more that could be integrated into the more comprehensive map. But I would also include estimated effects in both global terms and local/regional terms. It would include low-end and high-end estimates of these effects in hydrometeorological, economic, and social terms, differentiating between different emissions (CO2, methane, nitrogen oxides, etc.). Further information could include an assessment of needed practical changes at both the global and local/regional level.
One of the issues here is that climate change is a rather peculiar environmental problem compared to previous environmental problems. As Birnie and Boyle outline in their landmark, International Law and the Environment, some environmental problems are common property problems; some are shared resource problems; some are common heritage problems; some are sovereignty problems. This doesn't exhaust the possible legal frameworks, obviously, but climate change doesn't fit any of these because the atmosphere is not clearly delineable as property. International agreements have referred to the atmosphere and climate change as the "common concern of mankind." But this requires a perspective that moves beyond inherited perspectives on the nature of property, environment, sovereignty, economic activity, and harm.
A global interactive map could serve as a research tool, a reporting tool/clearing house for national emissions reductions and other mitigation and adaptation measures, a practical tool for developing other policies, and a visualized effort at reconceptualizing international and national norms about climate change.
Here's another new map: a high-resolution map of the US carbon footprint down to 100-square-kilometer segments.