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Climate Change and Global Warming

We all are concerned about climate change and the effects we already experience. But what if Global Warming is a natural phenomenon? Many people claim that on our planet, warmer and cooler periods have occurred for as far back as we are able to determine.

Periods of Global Warming have occurred some 100,000, 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, and scientific data has been obtained from proxy sources including sediment layers and rocks, ice cores, tree rings, and coral reefs. Compiling all these data allows us to determine temperatures millions of years ago.

To be honest, our planet would be an uninhabitable wilderness without what we know as the “greenhouse effect”. The US Environmental Defense Fund outlined that the atmosphere includes a natural source of so-called greenhouse gasses. These gasses capture heat and this way keep our planet’s surface warm enough to let us live here, and exactly this argument is what heats up the debate.

Scientists dispute that until not too long ago, the earth was pretty good at keeping up with the natural balance of atmospheric gasses. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, however, these gasses have been accumulating much more rapidly than our planet was able to remove them. An average raise of only two degrees globally will certainly drastically have an impact on human health and well-being, delicate ecosystems, the weather and the economy. We already experience the effects.

In general you can see that both groups of scientists agree with the fact that the earth is becoming warmer. So the question is, if you think this is a bad development, what could we do to slow this down? Let’s say that humans throughout the world developed a devoted endeavor to reduce our impact on this global warming trend, be it natural or not? Who knows.

But what if we considered our daily life on this planet from another perspective? This is now exactly what the Green Movement is all about, it is a holistic approach to our existence in general.

Promoting sustainability

Last month I attended a session  about promoting sustainability. Last spring UBC approached a local problem and an opportunity for core branding in sustainability. With the World Forum being held in Vancouver and over 350 university courses laying a claim to covering sustainability in their curriculum and no organizer to explore the richness thereof on campus they looked to technology to enable and engage stakeholders in sustainability solutions.

David Voigt (Director of Digital Learning Projects, Faculty of Education – UBC)went into some detail about global problems which were caused by a world urban tsunami with the numbers of people moving to cities going up. As a result of this the types of sustainability problems have increased in that we’re sharing air, power and housing problems. The question was asked “how can you quickly scope the solutions?” It is definitely overwhelming, and consultants were expensive. Despite that there was no lack of solutions and it was deemed a collective learning problem. How can cities learn from one another? Collaboration is the solution to this. The key is participation and the product is collective intelligence which is free. With authority these days not having much credibility with regard to direction, people are more open now to this type of collaboration.

Lee Iverson (Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering – UBC), got a bit more into the technicalities of social systems and how they can be a beneficial medium for research, study and bringing communities together. In a general it is an approach that can be highly personalized and creates an online memory system for resources that can be shared with others. This in many respects can create a community in key interest areas.

The key feature of these social systems is the “folksonomy“, which can be a fairly personalized way of organizing one’s resources, it’s non-hierarchical, non-structured and as more users add their “tags” it increases the findability of the information. This is commonly called “wisdom of the crowds” or crowdsourcing. With the combination of social bookmarking, blogs and tagging there is the potential for creating a “meme” tree for popular topics. One question I had here was that while you can use the wisdom of the crowds for adding unique tags for valued findability would it not also benefit from the addition of a structured taxonomy created by trained professionals (such as Librarians/Information Specialists)?

I found the discussion on tagging and communities in particular quite interesting as while new topics of concern may float upwards and create new constructive conversations and solutions I also wondered about the possibilities of certain interest groups using these systems to create campaigns for their own personal crusades and causes. Is this a potential dark side to it?