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Posts Tagged ‘google’

Google answered my wishes for an animated 3D-Map of climate change scenarios. From Reuters:

The project, Climate Change in Our World, is the result of cooperation between web search engine Google, Britain’s environment ministry and the country’s Met Office. Based on Google Earth which uses NASA satellite images, viewers can run a time lapse series to watch the earth warm under medium case scenarios up to 2100 either from a planetary perspective or zeroing in on countries and even cities. “This project shows people the reality of climate change using estimates of both the change in the average temperature where they live, and the impact it will have on people’s lives all over the world,” said environment secretary Hilary Benn.

I tried it. It is still very basic, and needs more local data, to be truly relevant. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction, and could be used, not just to show catastrophic scenarios, but also to visualize hopeful possibilities of a sustainable planet.

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Larry Page, Tony Blair, Jimmy Wales, Vinod Khosla, Shai Agassi, Elon Musk, Runt Ramsbottom, William McDonough, and a bunch of other very, very rich, and powerful men recently congregated for a weekend on Richard Branson‘s island. The event was organized in part by the the Climate Group, and aimed to discuss ‘the war against carbon‘. Lots of talks on new technologies, policy, and finances. And none about the human factor and conservation strategies. Have these high-powered folks so pessimistic about themselves and their fellow human beings that they have given up on the idea altogether? After all, Larry Page jet-pooled to the event . . .

I have said it before. Technologies, policy, financing do have an enormous role to play in our war against climate change. No question. However, they should work in tandem with some well thought out conservation strategies, including the financial support of local conservation efforts, and global communication campaigns about desired behavioral changes.

It strikes me that the whole climate change narrative is heavily skewed with patriarchal language. Listen to the words: policy, technology, power, war, . . . The threatened warriors are taking out their big guns.

Maybe the outcome would be different, if women in high places got involved?

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I had the privilege to attend the last Stanford University Woods Institute for the Environment Energy Seminar, featuring Dan Reicher, Director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives, for Google.org, the philanthropist arm of Google.

The folks at Google have a plan and it makes lots of sense. They have two major initiatives currently at work:

To develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal (RE<C): Create utility-scale electricity from clean renewable energy sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal. For RE<C to work, Google is betting on four arms: R&D, Investment, Policy, and Information Tools.

To accelerate the Commercialization of Plug-In Vehicles (RechargeIT): Seed innovation, demonstrate technology, inform the debate, and stimulate market demand to foster mass commercialization of plug-in vehicles.

Most striking in the Google plan, is its exclusive reliance on technology and policy, not unlike the recent McKinsey recommendations. At the end of his talk, I asked Dan Reicher if Google was considering any people driven initiatives? According to him, Google has just started looking into consumers’ behaviors and their impact on climate change.

In a way, Google‘s emphasis should be of no surprise. Google is a technology company, and they cannot tackle every possible angle of the problem. Instead they are focusing on their core competencies, engineering and technology. Google‘s top-down approach should be considered alongside bottom-up strategies such as David Holmgren‘s Permaculture Project, for instance.

For more on the Google approach to climate change, here is a video of Google.org‘s introductory course for Google employees. The session tackles global development, global health, and climate change, and explores how the three domain areas relate to each other. Well worth sitting for an hour. The bulk of the climate change lecture is towards the end:

Of course, I was particularly interested in the Information Tools aspect of the Google plan. Here is the list of all the Google tools that can be used to further the climate fight, as presented by Dan Reicher during his talk:

If you are not familiar with some of these tools, I urge you to play with them.

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It would be nice if I could place my individual actions within the larger context of climate change. How much do they each contribute, percentage wise, to greenhouse gas emissions? Activities such as: using the dryer, driving my car, eating meat, taking showers, flushing the toilet, using disposable plastic bags for groceries. I tried googling all the combinations I could think of, without much results. I found information on personal and family carbon footprint calculators, lists of recommended actions, general articles, but not the kind of meaningful data I was looking for. After several hours, I gave up.

It is true that I could adhere blindly to the list of recommended actions. I could just become a poster green girl, if I set my mind to it. I could, but I am not there yet. For each change in my behavior, each effort I will put in, I need to understand the net impact. Going back to the dryer example, what is the percentage of greenhouse gases generated as a result of dryer use in the US, and conversely what would be saved if we all went back to the old clothesline of my grandmother? I want to research this some more.

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