The FLIR camera is what makes seeing carbon emissions possible. Certain wavelengths of infrared are absorbed by carbon dioxide (CO₂). The FLIR camera detects them. It then applies a special color filter to the CO₂, allowing us to visualize carbon emissions as they happen. The result? One camera sees what your eyes see, the other shows another world—the world of carbon pollution. While technology makes it possible to see the problem, it’s up to all of us to work toward the solution.
For a more detailed explanation of how FLIR works, click here.
Footage from “Racing Extinction” courtesy of Oceanic Preservation Society. Director: Louie Psihoyos
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The FLIR camera shows both heat and CO₂. In order to see CO₂, we have to blind the FLIR camera to all that it can see, except for a very small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Think of it as a glass that only lets one shade of green through. This is known as a band pass filter. Since we know that CO₂ has a “shade of color” in the 4 micron range, we can use a band pass filter in that range, and this will result in images that appear brighter and darker in otherwise homogeneous areas when CO₂ is present in various concentrations. We still see heat, but the heat we see is dimmed and brightened by the presence of the CO₂. This is known as signal attenuation.