By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

As we drive deeper into our Orwellian future ala Google, where you can practically peer into your uncle’s windows in Toledo via Google Earth, it makes complete sense that we earthlings can now track how we’re corrupting the atmosphere.

Thus, today, you can view CO2 emissions, thanks to a new Google Earth application developed by Purdue University researchers and funded by NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Purdue Showalter Trust and Indianapolis-based Knauf Insulation.

The interactive CO2 emissions map will mostly confirm what you already know – that it’s getting thick out there, especially in cities like Los Angeles, plagued by higher than average auto emissions, and Houston, afflicted with bad air from industrial processes like oil refining. This is readily apparent because the chart color codes carbon pollution from different sectors, such as aircraft, on road and off road transportation; commercial and industrial sources; electricity production and residential emissions.

You can click through the sectors to see how this type of pollution, which comprises the biggest portion of greenhouse gases, is dispersed across the country. You can also drill down to the county level to get actual CO2 readings and a pie-chart breakdown of where they come from – a tool that should prove hugely valuable to scientists, policy makers and climate activists.

Los Angeles County, for instance, produced 22,302,428 metric tons of carbon pollution in 2002, nearly half of which came from on-road vehicles; industrial pollution also accounted forĀ  one-third of the total and residences, less than one-quarter.

Skip to another part of the country, where there’s more mass transit but chillier winters and the pie chart shifts.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., for example, about one-third of the pollution comes from cars, but nearly half comes from residences. Overall carbon pollution there was 2,798,001 metric tons in 2002.

Adjusting for population (LA has about 10 million residents compared with 2.5 million in Brooklyn), Brooklyn still comes out far ahead – or rather behind – in the carbon pollution calculation. It suffers about half as much the per capita overall carbon pollution as LA County.

One could surmise that greater access to mass transit, and denser urban development (which translates to fewer commuting/transporting miles), is part of the reason. But it would take a scientist to run any further with this comparison.

Clearly, though, each city faces different pollution issues. And this is made painfully obvious by the map.