Cyber-Environmental Politics?

Google and renewable energy? Hackers, deforestation and carbon emission rights? This might sound like an odd mix of events, but something is definitely in pipeline. Global environmental change and rapid information technological change have for a long time been viewed as parallel, and decoupled global phenomena. A number of events in the last month indicate that this is likely to change. Just consider the following events:

GoodMorning! Full Render #2 from blprnt on Vimeo.

Internet giant Google recently got an approval in the US, to buy and sell energy. This happens after the company’s explicit ambition to become one of the major players in renewable energy. According to the New York Times: “The company’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl said the company was fully committed to accelerating the development of renewable energy technologies that can prove more cost-effective than coal power, as a means of both curbing carbon emissions and trimming its own giant energy bill”.

In addition, computer hackers seem to have found a new pool of resources to steal from – emissions trading. As reported by Wired recently, hackers have been successful in stealing millions of dollars by launching “a targeted phishing attack against employees of numerous companies in Europe, New Zealand and Japan, which appeared to come from the German Emissions Trading Authority”. A similar attack was assumed in Brazil in December 2008 when hackers managed to get in to the government logging databases. The impacts? Illegal harvest of 1.7 million cubic meters of timber, according to Wired.

One final example is of course the ongoing bashing of the IPCC, and the now infamous e-mail hack of UK climate scientists. An interesting follow up is this op-ed in The Australian, arguing that the Internet is allowing climate change skeptics to gain traction. One of the more thought-provoking quotes from the article states:

The `climate consensus’ may hold the establishment — the universities, the media, big business, government — but it is losing the jungles of the web. After all, getting research grants, doing pieces to camera and advising boards takes time. The very ostracism the sceptics suffered has left them free to do their digging untroubled by grant applications and invitations to Stockholm.

See also John Bruno of, who asks “Who is orchestrating the cyber-bullying?”.

Are moving into an era of cyber-environmental politics? I’m pretty sure that we are.

5 thoughts on “Cyber-Environmental Politics?”

  1. Some evidence for you point Victor is that there is now a climate change iPhone app that explains the scientific context of “climate skeptic” debating points, and why they don’t refute climate change. The app based on a good website – Skeptical Science. The website is run by Australian John Cook who explains the app:

    “How it happened was a few months ago, I was contacted by Shine Technologies, a software development company from Melbourne, Australia. The owners of the company are passionate about climate change and were interested in getting the science from Skeptical Science onto mobile phones. This is a good idea for two reasons. Firstly, because now more than ever it’s imperative that the climate debate focuses on science so the more readily available the science, the better. Secondly, well, an iPhone app is pretty cool.

    So for the last few months, the boffins at Shine have been developing the app with Apple approving it today. How does it work? You browse arguments via the Top 10 most used arguments as well as 3 main categories (“It’s not happening”, “It’s not us”, “It’s not bad”):

    When you select one of the 3 main categories, a list of sub-categories pop up. You can then select any category to see the skeptic argument, a summary of what the science says and the full answer including graphs plus links to papers or other sources.

    A novel inclusion is a feature that lets you report when you encounter a skeptic argument. By clicking on the red ear icon (above left, shown to the left of the skeptic arguments or above right, next to the headline), the iPhone adds another hit to that particular skeptic argument. At the moment, which arguments you report are only available in a My Reports page, shown below. Shine Tech are hoping to play around with the Reports meta-data in future versions of the app – the phrase “heat-map” gets mentioned often.”

  2. Tell me you aren’t going to get this App to argue with climate skeptics. That would be an emberracing thing.

    So the skeptic says there is no climate consensus and you turn to your Iphone and read a clever response. Oooh good comeback. Nice. That move should bring the chick by the car load! LOL!

  3. More open access to climate change journal articles might also be useful. On that note, I wonder if they could include a source list for the rebuttal points in the App.

  4. Good point Patrick, forgot to add that in the text in the process of embedding the video. The video is a visualization of Twitter updates saying “Good Morning”, and shows the intensity (number) of tweets in different parts of the world over time. Hope this clarifies.

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