The Road to Paris

Ashley Wang, Brandon Levy, Kevin Zhang, Nina Lutz, & Nikki Waghani

Link to slides:

Link to web site:


Transportation is currently the second largest contributor to emissions, just behind electricity generation. Our primary goal is to reduce emissions by targeting commuters, and specifically those who drive to work. We want to show them the impact they can have by choosing a greener ride to work. We specifically sent out our web page to communities on Facebook and Reddit that are already inclined to care about climate change but might not be convinced that they can help. We aim to help them better understand the magnitude of the problem, convince them their actions can make a difference, and then show them how they can reasonably adjust their commute to contribute to our goal. In addition, we assume they are busy people so we aim to provide them with practical solutions they can actually implement. To do this we look at each individual’s commute and give concrete, specific options on how they can make it greener.

We would also like to inspire a grassroots effort to combat climate change in the face of lacking government leadership. Progress was made when the United Nations came together to draft the Paris Agreement in 2016 and it looked like the world had stepped up to the challenge of fighting climate change. However, with the recent administration change in the United States, it is possible that America will pull out of the Paris Agreement, making it important to educate and inspire Americans to act green regardless of what the government decides to do.

To evaluate how well our webpage accomplished our goals, we tracked how many users clicked on the petition link at the end. This data was collected from posting on the March for Science facebook page, reddit (r/climate and r/environment), and sending out the link to friends and family.

In total, 92 individuals accessed our web page and 13 of them (14%) clicked on the petition link at the end. Seeing as our target audience is already primed to care about this issue, this result could be viewed in one of two ways. It’s possible they already signed this petition or a similar one and so did not feel the need to sign this petition. Alternatively, it might suggest that our site was not effective in discussing the importance of the Paris Agreement, although user responses to other questions would suggest this isn’t the case.

We also asked users to complete a short post-survey. 31 users (34%) completed the post-survey. 13% of these individuals said our page made them “much more concerned” about climate change and 20% said that our page made them “slightly more concerned,” whereas 67% were “equally concerned” afterwards. The fact that our site was able to increase users’ concern at all is a solid accomplishment given that this audience is already primed to care about the issue.

Moreover, 13% said that they are “very likely” to change the way they commute after going through our web page, compared to 33% who said they are “slightly likely” and 54% who said they are “not at all likely.” Given that altering one’s commute can be a significant change to an ingrained routine and some of our respondents likely already take public transportation, bike, or walk to work, these results are encouraging.

85% of respondents said we should stay in the Paris Agreement, 10% said they weren’t sure, and 5% said we should not. Since our audience is already primed to care about global climate change, this is a bit disappointing. We seem to not have made a strong enough case for the importance of the US keeping its Paris commitments, since doing so should have been a really easy sell to our target audience. On the other hand, in reality, very few people said “not sure” or “no,” so perhaps these were people were outliers.

Finally, 52% of respondents said they think individual transportation choices can have a “big impact” on US greenhouse gas emissions, while 45% said “some impact” and 3% said “no impact.” Although it’s unclear whether our site caused these feelings of personal power, the numbers are still a great sign, since encouraging people to think their individual actions matter was the primary goal of our site. Even if they don’t change their commute, these people may institute other changes that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


The arc of our story begins with an introduction that establishes the planet is warming and quantifies how much warming has occurred over the past 130 years using data from NASA’s Goddard Institution for Space Studies. Next, we have an interactive that asks the user to project how much the Earth will warm if we continue emitting greenhouse gases at our current rate. After they make their guess, we show scientists’ actual prediction under the business-as-usual scenario and detail some of the effects of such a large amount of warming, including rising sea levels and more severe storms. Then on the same graph where users make their predictions, we display what will happen to temperatures if the Paris Climate goals are met. The numbers for both scenarios are drawn from global temperature projections supplied by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This portion of our web page concludes with a brief explanation of the Paris agreement.

The second part of our web page begins with a bubble chart that shows the carbon footprint of the United States in 2005 and what the US’s footprint will need to shrink to by 2025 in order to meet its commitment under the Paris agreement. Next to this chart, we display the five sectors of the economy that contribute to American greenhouse emissions and invite the user to increase or decrease them to see how much a change to each sector would affect US emissions. Data concerning the United States’ annual greenhouse gas emissions came from the World Bank, and numbers for the contribution of various sectors of the economy to US emissions came from the US Environmental Protection Agency. We conclude this section by informing the user that transportation is the second largest contributor to emissions in the US economy, just behind electricity generation.

The third section of our web page begins with an invitation to help the US meet its Paris commitment by changing the way the user commutes. This section features an interactive that informs the user about how fuel efficient their car is. Our page displays five cars, one in each quintile of fuel efficiency. We then ask the user what kind of car they drive and ask him or her to drag their car to a place on the scale from most fuel-efficient to least fuel-efficient. To do this, we utilize data on the fuel efficiencies of different passenger vehicles from the US Department of Energy.

The final section features an interactive that recommends changes to the user’s commute based on its length and how they currently get to and from work (by car, bus, or bike). We utilize the Google Maps API to calculate the length of the user’s commute, which is then used to determine the amount of carbon the user would produce by commuting by car, bus, and bike using numbers from the European Cyclists’ Federation. We also used that API to determine whether taking the bus or biking is an option for the user. We only recommend taking the bus as an option if it there is a bus route and it would reduce the carbon footprint of the user’s commute (since the bus route may be significantly longer than a direct route via car). Similarly, biking is only recommended if the user’s commuting distance is less than two kilmometers. In all cases, we also recommend carpooling or purchasing a more fuel efficient car as ways to “green” the user’s commute.