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Giant CO2 spheres invade NYC

The Big Apple may be on course to cut its carbon footprint by a third, but this video is an arresting illustration of the challenge.

Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

With its many pedestrians and subway users, New York seems like one of the greener cities in the U.S. But it still produced a gob-smacking mountain of carbon emissions in 2010.

In the vid below from graphics firm Carbon Visuals, the 54 million tons of CO2 is illustrated as a mass of spheres that tower over the city, engulfing its buildings.

Some 75 percent of the pollution came from buildings, with the bulk of the rest from transport, according to the firm, which used city data.

The spheres are 33 feet across, and the 9,150-foot mountain of gas stretches from the edge of Brooklyn to near 52nd Street.

Of course, part of the mountain -- 36 percent -- is air between the spheres. The firm says it chose that density to reflect a random packing of spheres.

If the emissions were one large sphere, it would measure 2.37 miles across, according to Carbon Visuals. See calculation details here.

"Simply by showing how much of it there is, hopefully we can improve the debate about carbon emissions," the firm's creative director Adam Neiman told Reuters.

The world is adding 1,062 spheres like the ones in the animation every second, he added.

New York is trying to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 30 percent from levels in 2006. Levels in 2010 were down 12 percent from 2005, so that mountain of spheres could continue to shrink.

Carbon Visuals, meanwhile, is planning to create more animations of spheres invading London and other cities.