How Can I Keep Track of Carbon Emissions and Climate Change?

There are many excellent sources of keeping track of what happens in terms of carbon emissions and climate change. A good historical starting point is perhaps the famous “Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change”.

Authored in 2006 by the former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, it stated that the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere has increased from 280 ppm (parts per million) to 430 ppm since the beginnings of industrialization in 1850 and rises by around 2 ppm every year. The Review suggested, that we need to keep the concentration below 550 ppm to avoid potentially dangerous climate change of more than 2 degrees Celsius.

In this article, we give you the means so you can keep track of carbon emissions and climate change. Keep reading and discover where to find accurate information.

International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

If you have a lot of stamina and want to get into the nitty-gritties of the global debate, have a look at the annual in-depth reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They are the product of an ongoing effort to understand climate change, involving literally thousands of scientists around the world. They split their work into three of so-called “working groups” that correspond to different scientific challenges.

Climate change and human activity

The 1st working group seeks to answer the question: is climate change happening and is it caused by human activity and emissions? It looks at the physical scientific aspects of climate change, including:

– Changes in greenhouse gases and aerosols in the atmosphere;

– observed changes in air, land and ocean temperatures, rainfall, glaciers and ice sheets, oceans and sea level;

– The historical and paleoclimatic perspective on climate change;

– Biogeochemistry, carbon cycle, gases and aerosols;

– Satellite data and other data;

– Climate models;

– Climate projections, causes and attribution of climate change.

Vulnerability to Climate Change

The 2nd working group seeks to understand the question: how vulnerable are we to climate change? It assesses the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to climate change, the negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to it.

It also takes into consideration the inter-relationship between vulnerability, adaptation and sustainable development. The assessed information is considered by sectors (water resources; ecosystems; food & forests; coastal systems; industry; human health) and regions (Africa; Asia; Australia & New Zealand; Europe; Latin America; North America; Polar Regions; Small Islands).

Stop Climate Change

The 3rd working group focuses on the question: what can we do to limit or mitigate climate change through reducing emissions of greenhouse gases or removing them from the atmosphere?

The main economic sectors are taken into account, both in a near-term and in a long-term perspective. The sectors include energy, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry, waste management.

The working group analyses the costs and benefits of the different approaches to mitigation, considering also the available instruments and policy measures. The approach is more and more solution-oriented.

There are, of course, excellent summaries, highlights, videos, policy recommendations and other resources distilled from the annual report.

What is our carbon emissions space? See at Trillionth Ton

If you want to know, how much “carbon space” we still have and want to play around with a couple of key parameters, have a look at the website of the Trillionth Ton.

It will tell you that we are rapidly chewing up our carbon emissions space – at the current rate by about 2039. A good website to play with different emissions reductions scenarios that differentiates between developed and undeveloped countries is available here.

Climate Data Center

For an easy overview of the emission statistics by country, look at the Climate Data Explorer provided by the World Resource Institute. There is even a very interesting tool that lets you calculate national “carbon budgets” based on various criteria, including:

– by current emissions (total, per capita, per GDP);

– by historical emissions (cumulative, per capita);

– by development indicators (per capita GDP, poverty ratios, Human Development Index);

– by vulnerability to climate change and by potential for mitigation action (co-benefits with e.g. air pollution reduction, cost of mitigation and investment required).

Global Carbon Atlas

Another good visualization is the Global Carbon Atlas. Some of the highlights have been helpfully collected and made into slides by the Robbie Andrew Center for Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.


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Tobias Engelmeier
Tobias Engelmeier
Tobias Engelmeier is an entrepreneur and very passionate about the climate, sustainability, solar energy and India. He is a German Indophile. You can find out more about Tobias on and on LinkedIn. He is also active on Twitter (@TEngelmeier).
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