top of page

What do Greenhouse Gas Emissions Look Like? How I visualized Jordan's Emissions with 3D modelling.

When we talk about climate change, and as the years go by, our discussions become increasingly more detailed and convoluted. The first time we ever heard about climate change, we learned about global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, and the greenhouse effect. And today, if you kept up with the climate change conversation, you might find yourself in discussions revolving around climate justice, climate finance, green recovery, loss and damage, and ever increasing concepts and complicated terms. But I wanted to go back to the core.

My day to day work is in climate change mitigation and adaptation, but I realized that even though I constantly talk about emissions in tons of CO2, I never really understood the scale of those emissions. What would that look like if we could see it? So I decided to model it in 3D, and I'll detail that process below.

To begin, I did some research to find the exact volume of a ton of CO2 (the base measurement for GHG emissions), which came out to 556.3 cubic meters. Some basic math and we can determine the height of a "ball" of CO2 if it was 1 ton. Using the open source 3D modeling software Blender, and a basic human 3D asset that was 1.75m tall I put them side by side and witnessed what that looked like. Seeing that was truly eye opening, however, we talk about emissions in millions of tons, and I started wondering how we can model millions of these balls and really understand the scale of our impact on the planet. Taking the latest emissions data from Jordan's 2017 GHG inventory, I set out to simulate both the daily and annual emissions.

But first, I needed something bigger than a human to compare the emissions to, and what better than Jordan's infamous Jordan Gate Towers.

Photo Credit: Jordan News

So that's an idea, model the city of Amman in 3D, and throw in the balls of CO2 in there, but where do I even start? After some research, I discovered the magic of BlenderGIS, a plugin that can create basic models of buildings from a portion of a satellite map. And with some tuning and tweaking, and a week of manually adding trees, a 3D model of a crane, and texturing the buildings, this is what we get.

Good enough, we're not going to focus on any of the small buildings anyway, I eventually did have to fix the roof of the tower to add tiles and walls as we do spend a good portion of the video at the top of the building.

Now we go back to the actual emissions, how do we model millions of tons of CO2? At first, I tested Blenders "molecular" plugin that allows us to simulate the interaction between millions of particles and visualize what they look like next to each other. After hours of simulating and rendering, it was impressive, but there were many gaps between the particles, and the scale was too exaggerated for my liking.

So I scrapped that approach and went with good old math, if our daily emissions are 89,000 tons, and annual emissions are 32,646,000 tons, and we know the volume of 1 ton, what would the daily and annual emissions look like? This is what we get.

I textured it and added a few extra floating balls to add to the gassy/chaotic look of the simulation. I also had to increase the ball size to 10 tons in the annual emissions simulation, to make them more visible, but the scale is accurate to the meter.

And that's it! A little bit of camera animation, fly-bys, modifiers, keyframes, rendering, editing in Premiere Pro, and we get a finished product. Rendering took approximately 2 hours after upgrading to the RTX 3080 graphics card, but all in all the entirety of the work began in August, and I had only started using Blender in January. So here we are with a finished product right on time for COP27.

I hope this inspires someone to take a chance and try something new, I never imagined I would be able to accomplish something of this scale.


bottom of page