Climate Change Wiki
By Bill Henderson
24 August, 2007
"(T)here are “moderate”
climate-change scientists and activists who see the problem as serious
but solvable, while there are some who believe that the world has already
passed a “tipping point” beyond which catastrophic impacts
are inevitable. It is probably fair to say that the substantial majority
of both groups find themselves somewhere midway between extreme positions
staked out by some of their spokespeople." Richard
the moment we continue to use ever increasing quantities of fossil fuels
and the resulting climate change problem continues to build. Climate
change policy is adrift with mitigation being undertaken at a sluggish
pace despite the increasing evidence of potential dangerous climate
Emission reduction in the
United States - which realistically must be the leader in establishing
meaningful emission reduction programs if there is ever going to be
a world wide buy-in to effective mitigation - is piecemeal at best,
lead by California and by some American cities.
In our western democracies
the primary purpose of government has evolved into being a protective
system for nurturing the economy. Politicians do not lead - they follow.
Increasingly complex, now globalized economies confine legislators to
a straightjacket nixing any policy change that could possibly negatively
effect economic growth by even minor percentage points. Media corporations
themselves dependent upon continuing smooth flowing business as usual
have not and will not effectively educate general publics about the
real dangers of climate change. Inertia strongly favors denial not action.
Innovation is needed if effective
emission reduction is to be implemented globally. Most importantly,
there may be potentially very serious climate change tipping points
that require effective implementation immediately.
Digital technology to the
rescue with a way to rapidly speed up educating general publics about
the urgency of climate change mitigation within a new process for developing
consensus on risk assessment and mitigation strategies.
If a major centrist organization
- such as the Pew Foundation for only one example - facilitated the
collaborative construction of a climate change consensus, a climate
change wiki, created and evolving with input by any and every informed
participant globally, it is possible that candidates in the 08 US presidential
and congressional elections could have a definitive state of the art
overview of climate change/mitigation to either incorporate into their
platforms or to run against.
A wiki is a collaborative
website which can be directly edited by anyone with access
to it. Business has already begun using this new technology for opening
up hierarchies in problem solving within departments so that a full
and unfettered flow of all relevant info is possible.
Once an initial template
has been developed every potential stakeholder from scientist to business
owner, from any potential climate change victim to every fossil fuel
corporation, every diverse layer of government and any specially informed
citizen can be enfranchised to access, add or edit information.
Digital technology allows
for such a building process to be global, inclusive, and to achieve
at least a beginning consensus in a remarkably short time. The present
division between scientists and policy makers can be closed; the IPCC
has correlated the emerging science (within a problematic political
framework), but there are no meaningful feedback loops with policy formation
at present. The full range of arguments about the science and mitigation
incorporating any tangential perspective can be iterated in the wiki
process. We can greatly increase the understanding of the climate change
problem and possible mitigation.
There have already been limited
attempts to create climate change wikis, but so far without the resources
of a significant organization. There has to be enough buy-in at the
onset so that all major stakeholders would be compelled to participate
or eventually accept an empowering consensus by default
The best existing template
for climate change mitigation (in my humble opinion) is Ian Dunlop's
Change & Peak Oil: An Integrated Policy Response for
Australia . Significantly it is also a template for ameliorating the
twin building problem of the end of cheap fossil fuel energy (or more
popularly: Peak Oil). Dunlop has proposed building upon an improved
Kyoto platform with the utilization of instruments that are already
well understood: contraction-convergence, carbon trading, an oil depletion
Jim Hansen, George Monbiot,
David Spratt and many others are in the tail of informed
opinion aware and concerned that climate change is non-linear: with
greenhouse gas emissions increasing we are approaching tipping points
beyond which climate change may no longer be manageable; it will be
out of our hands, with potentially catastrophic consequences for man
and indeed for most of the species with which we now share creation.
We desperately need a way
to rapidly quantify these tipping point risks. With carbon cycle time
lags, we could quietly slip over the bar at any time, cross over a threshold
to catastrophic climate change dominating everybody's future. Climate
change is now acknowledged as the biggest market failure ever and we
will not reach agreement let alone take precautionary action without
global consensus, without innovation.
latest (as yet unpublished) science directly analyzing
potential climate change tipping points suggest that the 450ppm - 2
degrees C precautionary ceiling for levels of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere should protect us from the worst of climate change danger.
There does appear to be enough time - a hopeful window of opportunity
- for precautionary mitigation.
No human process will ever
be perfect and it is too much to expect that constructing a climate
change wiki will lead to complete global unanimous agreement on such
a contentious subject. But building a wiki could be the democratic innovation
we need to finally adequately address the climate change problem - a
wiki could at least put us all on the same page - and may be a very
useful tool in managing man so that a sustainable future is possible.
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