A 2012 animation showing New York buried under a mountain of bubbles allowed people to appreciate the scale of carbon emissions, says Real World Visuals.
A 2012 animation showing New York City being buried under a mountain of giant bubbles allowed people to appreciate the scale of carbon emissions for the first time, according to its creators Real World Visuals.
Released in 2012, the computer-generated timelapse shows the city being buried under a mountain of bubbles representing the city’s 54 million tonnes of annual CO2 emissions.
“Carbon emissions are invisible and that’s a core part of the problem,” said Real World Visuals co-founder Antony Turner. “If carbon dioxide was purple, we would start taking notice.”
Making abstract concept of emissions more understandable
In the video, the communications agency depicted the city’s annual emissions as 54 million bubbles, each ten metres in diameter, which gradually subsume the city.
Nine years later, the iconic image of the blue mountain towering above the Empire State Building remains one of the highest-ranking climate change images on the internet.
Despite the fact that the three-minute video features almost no audio, it has been viewed almost half a million times on YouTube and was picked up by outlets including the Guardian and Scientific American.
The simple animation helps to make the abstract concept of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions more understandable to the general public.
“Part of the problem is that some people are very cut off from quantitative information,” said the agency’s creative director Adam Nieman.
“You put numbers and graphs in front of people and they bounce straight off.”
This is compounded when it comes to the issue of atmospheric carbon, he argues, which is “a problem with an invisible cause”.
“Our [aim] is to make the cause of climate change visible because very few other people are approaching it like that,” Nieman added.
Viewers can relate to spheres on a physical level
Based in England, Real World Visuals was originally founded in 2009 under the name Carbon Visuals with the aim of visualising imperceptible environmental challenges such as emissions, air pollution and ozone depletion.
The New York City emissions animation, which the agency created for the Environmental Defense Fund, is its most successful project to date.