Every year, the U.S. government spends trillions of dollars on a wide range of budgetary items.
While the largest categories of spending, such as entitlement programs or debt interest, do not offer lawmakers a lot of flexibility, the government does get to decide how discretionary spending – about $1.3 trillion in FY2019 – gets put to use.
Discretionary Spending Over Time
Today’s animation from data scientist Will Geary shows the evolution of U.S. discretionary spending from 1963 until today:
The U.S. budget is generally divided into three main categories:
Discretionary Spending: This category, depicted in the animation, is the optional part of the budgetary equation – it’s the aspect that most people talk about, as the allocation of funding towards different things like defense, education, and transportation can be changed by lawmakers.
Mandatory Spending: Also known as entitlement spending, this category includes funding for programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. It’s called mandatory spending because the government legally is committed to fulfilling these obligations, and it exists outside of the normal budget appropriations process.
Net Interest: This category is for payments on the national debt, also something that is necessary unless the country is willing to default on these obligations.
Discretionary Spending Today
As the animation shows, after adjusting for inflation (using 2009 dollars), discretionary spending has doubled since 1963.
In 1963, which was essentially the height of the Cold War, the U.S. was spending 73% on the military to make up the vast majority of the $547 billion (2009 dollars) in discretionary spending.
Meanwhile, in Fiscal Year 2019, the government has allocated $1.3 trillion (today’s dollars) to the budget:
Things haven’t changed much since 1963 in that defense still comprises the majority of spending – in fact, the only recent time periods where U.S. defense spending fell below 50% were roughly between 1977-1981 and 1999-2004.
American spending on defense dwarfs all other countries, but there are other categories that make up decent chunks of the discretionary budget as well.
While they seem small on the above chart, transportation (7%), education (7%), and veteran benefits (6%) are all actually categories that receive over $70 billion of annual funding – still a significant piece of change.
All the World’s Carbon Emissions in One Chart
Just 15 countries are responsible for almost three quarters of the world’s carbon emissions. But what does this look like per capita, and over time?
All the World’s Carbon Emissions in One Chart
Two degrees Celsius may not seem like much, but on our planet, it could be the difference between thriving life and a disastrous climate.
Over two centuries of burning fossil fuels have added up, and global decision-makers and business leaders are focusing in on carbon emissions as a key issue.
Emissions by Country
This week’s chart uses the most recent data from Global Carbon Atlas to demonstrate where most of the world’s CO₂ emissions come from, sorted by country.
|Rank||Country||Emissions in 2017 (MtCO₂)||% of Global Emissions|
|🌐 Rest of World||10,028||27.7%|
|#2||🇺🇸 United States||5,269||14.6%|
|#8||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||635||1.8%|
|#9||🇰🇷 South Korea||616||1.7%|
|#14||🇿🇦 South Africa||456||1.3%|
|🌐 Top 15||26,125||72.2%|
In terms of absolute emissions, the heavy hitters are immediately obvious. Large economies such as China, the United States, and India alone account for almost half the world’s emissions. Zoom out a little further, and it’s even clearer that just a handful of countries are responsible for the majority of emissions.
Of course, absolute emissions don’t tell the full story. The world is home to over 7.5 billion people, but they aren’t distributed evenly across the globe. How do these carbon emissions shake out on a per capita basis?
Here are the 20 countries with the highest emissions per capita:
Source: Global Carbon Atlas. Note: We’ve only included places with a population above one million, which excludes islands and areas such as Curaçao, Brunei, Luxembourg, Iceland, Greenland, and Bermuda.
Out of the original 30 countries in the main visualization, six countries show up again as top CO₂ emitters when adjusted for population count: Saudi Arabia, the United States, Canada, South Korea, Russia, and Germany.
The CO₂ Conundrum
We know that rapid urbanization and industrialization have had an impact on carbon emissions entering the atmosphere, but at what rate?
Climate data scientist Neil Kaye answers the question from a different perspective, by mapping what percentage of emissions have been created during your lifetime since the Industrial Revolution:
|Your Age||% of Total Global Emissions|
|15 years old||You've been alive for more than 30% of emissions|
|30 years old||You've been alive for more than 50% of emissions|
|85 years old||You've been alive for more than 90% of emissions|
Put another way, the running total of emissions is growing at an accelerating rate. This is best seen in the dramatic shortening between the time periods taken for 400 billion tonnes of CO₂ to enter the atmosphere:
- First period: 217 years (1751 to 1967)
- Second period: 23 years (1968 to 1990)
- Third period: 16 years (1991 to 2006)
- Fourth period: 11 years (2007 to 2018)
In order to be a decarbonised economy by 2050, we have to bend the (emissions) curve by 2020… Not only is it urgent and necessary, but actually we are very nicely on our way to achieving it.
— Christiana Figueres, Convenor of Mission 2020
24 Iconic World Flags, and What They Mean
Many world flags are instantly recognizable, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. What are the stories behind some of the world’s most iconic flags?
From the skull and bones at the top of a pirate ship to a white flag on a battlefield, a single piece of fabric can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Depending on where they fly, flags can represent freedom or control, danger or safety.
In the context of modern times, flags are best known as national symbols — and they’re used to air a country’s past, present, and future vision all rolled into one.
The Meaning of Flags
Today’s infographic from Just the Flight looks at some the world’s most iconic flags, and the intricate stories and ideals that can be found in their designs.
Since 1777, the star-spangled banner of the United States has gone through several facelifts. The current version has been in use since Hawaii gained statehood in 1960. Puerto Rico has been voting to become the 51st state in recent years — and if the U.S. government proved to accept such a resolution, the flag would be amended once more.
The largest country in South America, Brazil adopted its flag design in 1889. The primarily green background represents its lush Amazonian forest while the yellow diamond signifies its wealth in gold. Meanwhile, the Portuguese slogan on the flag, Ordem e Progresso, is a nod to democracy.
Denmark holds the Guinness world record for the oldest continuous use of their national flag, since 1625. The Danish flag is known as the Dannebrog, or Danish Cloth — as legend has it, the Dannebrog ‘miraculously’ fell from the sky in a battle during the Northern Crusades.
The Union Jack of the United Kingdom combines aspects of three older national flags and was adopted in 1801. Displaying the flag upside down is considered lèse-majesté — “to do wrong to majesty”, or an insult to the Crown — and is offensive to some.
Asia and Oceania
India’s tricolor flag was first flown in 1923. However, the colors do not represent religions or hours in the day — saffron symbolizes indifference to material gains, the white band represents light while the navy blue Dharma Chakra (wheel of truth) depicts dynamic change, and green demonstrates the country’s relationship to nature.
New Zealand’s flag features elements from the British Commonwealth. Since 2015, there have been ongoing debates among Kiwis about whether to amend the flag’s design. Frequent confusion with Australia is a significant pro for change, but national identity and financial costs are strong arguments against it.
Nepal is the only country without a rectangular (or square) national flag. The two triangles pay tribute to its geographic location in the Himalayas as well as the Shah and Rana dynasties. The sun and moon symbols on the flag used to have human faces on them, but were removed in 1962.
South Africa boasts one of the world’s most colorful flags. When it was first adopted after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, it was the first world flag to have six colors but no seal or brocade. Interestingly, while there is no inherent meaning in its colors, the Y shape symbolizes the convergence of diverse elements and societal unity.
Mozambique is the only national flag in the world to feature a modern weapon – specifically, an AK-47 with an attached bayonet. Adopted in 1983, the rifle represents vigilance and defense, while the hoe crossing it represents the country’s agriculture.
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