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Visualizing Global CO2 Emissions

Author(s): Yen-Chu Weng

University of Washington

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Using CO2 emissions data, students will learn how to visualize data with Tableau Public. The teaching materials are suitable for upper-level undergraduate courses on data analysis and research methods in Environmental Sciences and Studies.

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 10 May 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4569C - cite this

Adapted from: Regulating Carbon Emissions v 1.0


Using CO2 emissions data from the World Bank, students are introduced data visualization tools in the software Tableau. Students learn how to display data in bar charts, line charts, thematic maps, and other types of visualization such as tree maps, box plots, bubble charts, etc. Tableau is a software for business intelligence and analytics with a focus on user-friendly data visualization. In class, we use the free version Tableau Public to practice data visualization skills.

Case study or module title: Visualizing Global CO2 Emissions (adapted from the original case study Regulating Carbon Emissions  by Robyn Smyth, Sandra Penny, Curt Gervich, Gautam Sethi, Eric Leibensperger, and Pinar Batur, InTeGrate)

Course/Course format: “Socio-Environmental Data Analysis Workshop”, junior/senior/graduate major and non-majors, 20 students, 2 2-hour lab time each week, taught in a computer lab

This publication includes three files:

  1. Teaching Notes and Implementation Plan
  2. Instruction and Assignment
  3. World_Bank_CO2 (Excel emissions data)

Quantitative learning objective:

  • The ability to search and obtain data on climate change-related topics (carbon emissions specially) from the public domain
  • The ability to clean up and organize data on a spreadsheet
  • The ability to create relevant data visualization (charts, maps, tables) to answer specific research questions related to climate change
  • The ability to use the Tableau software to present visualization work
  • The ability to tell a story about climate change (based on data analysis) and put together a Tableau dashboard

Socio-environmental learning objective:

  • The ability to describe trends in climate change data. For carbon emissions specifically, trends through time and trends across countries
  • Based on the trends identified above, develop the ability to connect carbon emission data to socio-economic development of different countries through time
  • Based on the trends identified above, develop the ability to connect carbon emission data to environmental justice questions on the global scale
  • Based on the trends identified above and the following discussion, develop the ability to formulate carbon emission reduction strategies and plans



Although this teaching module uses the software Tableau to demonstrate data visualization work, the author does not endorse any promotion of this software. We use the free public version of the software for teaching.

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