The distorted world

Here is a cartogram which adjusts country area for greenhouse gas emissions. It comes from Mark Newman [Hat tip: Eric Rasmusen] whose site also has a link to software to produce these. Check out the Worldmapper project for more of these.

What is funny about this is the power of benchmarking against area? In normal statistics, we normally benchmark against population but have no real picture of this so we have a view of fairness based on square kilometers.

Actually, it is worse than that since the world map is a projection of the surface of a sphere onto a plane and so lots of countries look smaller in area than they actually are. The picture to the right is the appropriate benchmark.

One thought on “The distorted world”

  1. The position of Antarctica seems pretty anomalous on the cartogram map. I assume the enormous size is due to the same spherical distortion, rather than huge greenhouse emissions (although those Antarticans should all hang their head in shame for their likely future contributions to the sea level.)

    Anyway, it makes me wonder whether we’d learn more by reweighting the cartogram by multiplying the factor being studied (e.g. a country’s ‘greenhouse emissions’) by (apparent area of country on a standard map / actual area of country), so we get to see the distortion away from a world map we’re actually familiar with.

    All up, though, a cartogram seems like a dumb way of learning which countries are the biggest polluters. Why not just a simple table from best to worst? The distribution of greenhouse emissions is a political (and maybe personal) issue, not a locational one.

    (Note the apparent raw deal that Alaska gets. That isn’t spherical distortion. It’s just being the ‘largest state in the Union’ but not contiguous with the rest of it. Victoria, on the other hand, gets a benefit from being politically and geographically aligned to big areas with low populations.)


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