4/12/2017

Carbon Doomsday: Tracking CO2 since 1958

 

By Luke Murphy, lead back-end developer

Carbon Doomsday is a real-time API and chart of worldwide carbon dioxide levels. Developed as a community project, its goal is to be an open-source platform for climate data. Data for the API and chart comes from NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab in Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The project is rooted in principles of free software, open data access and a willingness to contribute to further education on the global climate issue.

The project was initiated out of frustration by the lack of any authoritative and user-friendly CO2 emissions tracker available online.

A popular blog post, written by Tito Jankowski, co-founder and CEO of Impossible Labs, outlined the basic idea:

no one really gives a f--k about climate change. If they did, there would be a reasonable tracker, charter, and map of historic events that was easily discoverable with a simple Google Search.

Jankowski followed with a callout to the technology community and a proposal to start collaborating on solutions. He offered a list of requirements that the desired platform should provide. The blog post was submitted to HackerNews, a vastly popular community driven technology website. Within weeks, a small community including developers from Germany, Ireland, and the United States began to form and build the first prototype.

Image: The current team of volunteers.

 

In order to build the tracker, an open data source was required. An investigation into available open data sources discovered that the majority of scientific bodies used free access licenses but distributed their sources in inconvenient formats and fragmented across various access portals. This raised problems for the use and adaptation of the data.

To overcome this, the disparate sources were unified under a common data format and a centrally accessible web portal was created. A data processing channel was set up to ensure new measurements would be accessible under this new portal.

The volunteers realised that the proposed platform could also provide a reliable and convenient open source resource for the climate data community. Work shortly began on the first open access data web API for CO2 emission measurements. The data is based on the widely reputed Mauna Loa Observatory's measurements, which goes back to 1956. Raw data from Mauna Loa is available through the Carbon Doomsday API platform here. The chart graphing the data since 1958 is available here.

Image: Tito Jankowski presenting our initial beta release on site at Mauna Loa Observatory, standing next to the original monitoring instrument that monitored the “Keeling Curve” from 1958 - 2005.

Once the tracker has been completed, volunteers are hoping to attract members of the wider climate data community for further collaboration. The project is open to contributors of all skill level and interest. Please find out more by joining the public chat room or reading the contribution guide.

The project has been featured on HackADay and New Context Conference.

About the author

Luke Murphy is a Software Engineer based in the Netherlands. He is the lead back-end developer of Carbon Doomsday, and a member of the technology worker cooperative Aptivate, developing software for the international development sector.

A beta version of the tracker is available for you to explore here.

Image: neufcent9.

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