Mind the Climate

[cross-posted: Mind the Gap]

Changing the way we look at climate change.

I want you to, for a second, forget about the extreme weather, the rising tides, biodiversity loss and ocean acidification. That’s right, I, the one writing to you from the blogger loft at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change CoP-16, do NOT want you to focus on all that bad stuff about climate change and where the world might go if we can not firm up an international agreement.

Instead I want to think of something you love, or like enough to use everyday… err ok at least its in use right now: the Internet!

When I first saw the Google exhibit at in the convention center at this climate change conference I was a bit confused, what does Google have to do with climate change policy? The answer is the “Google Earth Engine,” which, aside from being a lot of fun to play with (travel the world in seconds – Hi parliament!), actually has some very practical applications.

Image of the Canadian Parliament via Google Earth Engine.

Image of the Canadian Parliament via Google Earth Engine.

For the first time ever satellite images of the entire world are available for free. Right now this is being used to track deforestation and the heavily discussed REDD+ project and is a bit of a test run.

Google.org, Google’s charitable branch is working on ways to use the Internet to solve social and environmental issues. By literally overlapping Internet technology with environmental problems we can see climate change in new ways. We can actually see forests shrinking, ice melting and oceans rising over time.

Really cool though, is that this “we” I talk about is not just governments and scientists anymore, it is everybody with an Internet connection. It means that we can start to address global problems as a global population. We can take these maps and use them however we want. We can create new tools and new systems to apply the satellite technology and we can share those ideas and insights with anyone we want.

But the Internet and climate change love affair does not have to end at maps. In fact it is precisely because the Internet can be used to re-envision almost every aspect of life that makes it so darn useful. From allowing increased access to information, to speeding up processing time of news, to allowing the average citizen to not only piece together their own understanding of whats going on in the world but also re-format it in visual and audio ways and then share it!

“Gaps” (rather than problems), one could say, are being filled left, right, and center.
It’s all a matter of how you look at it.

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