I came across a fascinating post over at Econobrowser about the striking correlations between a) and area’s wealth and its proximity to oceans and rivers and b) an islands wealth and the time it spent as a European colony. Needless to say, both are positively correlated. Below the fold is a map of “global weath” as a function of GDP per kilometer. Interesting stuff, and very telling about the burgeoning economies of several notable “developing” nations. But how does this line up with global pollution?
(Click below the fold to view global wealth map and pollution map.)
This map assigns a value per kilometer, and expresses that in shades of red. Click here for a huger version.
Now the Econobrowser post does an excellent job pointing out that this map looks strikingly similar to pictures of the world’s electric light distribution from space. But one question that was irking me was whether this “wealth map” also correlated (albeit roughly, eyeballing it) with a map of global pollution. It seemed intuitive–the world’s biggest economies woulf be the richest, and the biggest outputs of pollutants. I came across a 2004 global map of atmospheric nitrogen dioxide which was based on 18 months worth of satellite data.
For a huger version go here.
Although NO2 is formed naturally by lightning and by microbes in the ground, it is also released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels by power plants, heavy industry and vehicles. Large quantities of the gas can cause respiratory problems and lung damage, and can also contribute to harmful ozone forming near ground level.
Yes, the maps are strikingly similar–there are large pockets of pollution above China, Europe, the USA, and S.Africa. That is also where “hot spots” of concentrated wealth lie. Uh oh–wouldn’t that also suggest that the biggest contributers to pollution are those that can *most* afford to curb it?