Product Level Embodied Carbon in International Trade

 

In this short animation, designer Wen Wang worked with researcher Sato Misato,The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment to visualise the balance of global embodied carbon flows and trade between the 20 top countries that are production and/or consumption centres. The film particularly focuses on the carbon flows between Latin and North America. The study is a first attempt to measure global embodied carbon in bilateral-trade at the product level.

 

The Research 

Sato says ‘My research represents a first quantification exercise of global embodied carbon in bilateral-trade at the product level. The objective is to gain insights into the nature of the flows that were previously masked when using aggregated models. I measure embodied carbon flows by using the material balance approach, whereby bilateral trade flows expressed in physical quantities are multiplied by product pollution intensities.

My story so far… the granular mapping of embodied carbon revealed a number of new insights which were masked in previous quantifications using aggregated models. It found that focusing attention on the balance of embodied carbon in trade between Annex I and non-Annex II regions invites simplistic and problematic interpretations of EET estimates. In terms of the distribution of global EET across products, 70% of global EET is attributable to 15% of the 970 products examined. This suggests that focusing mitigation efforts and trade-measures on these products would be an effective strategy to address potential carbon leakage, and to decarbonising international supply chains’.

 

Design by Wen WangMA Graphic Branding and Identity

Wen says ‘ My task was to explore and discuss visual solutions for mapping global embodied carbon flows captured in contingency tables. The most challenging part was to represent and analyse the complex relationships between carbon and bilateral trade within the 197 countries for 970 products and to represent the data in an interesting and accessible manner to the broader audience that also showcases Sato’s innovative work. To make sense of Sato’s research, I summarised it in four points: 1) Geographical distribution 2) Sector Distribution 3 )Import & Export 4) 3 types of countries: production centres, consumption centres, production & consumption centres.

In terms of the graphic language, I was inspired by photographer Eric Fischer. The Geotaggers’ World Atlas was a good example of his data visualization approach’.

Wen takes us through her visual experiments and design process from the initial brief to the final output in her visual summary and this short film.

 



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