The Climate Web is the first effort to curate and organize the work of hundreds of individuals and organizations producing insightful and actionable information and knowledge on climate change. Using innovative TheBrain® software, the Climate Web pulls together information from more than a dozen relevant disciplines and dozens of topics. It organizes books, reports, presentations, news stories, and websites, but it doesn’t stop there. It goes further — extracting and linking tables, figures, presentation slides, and even specific ideas into “thoughts” that help you find “actionable knowledge.” The Climate Web has only scratched the surface of its potential, but it already links more than 15,000 documents and 20,000 URLS through 80,000 “thoughts” and more than 130,000 links.
The desktop version of TheBrain® software provides a lot of flexibility that is not available to you when entering the Climate Web through the Webbrain interface. We are hoping that the next version of TheBrain® software will make the web interface more powerful and allow you to more readily to find and see the “right information” for your purposes. In the meantime, one service we can perform with the Climate Web is to extract and seed your own TheBrain-based knowledge management system. You would then be able to take full advantage of the desktop software, actively adapt the information to your own needs, and build it out from there. Think of it as giving you a 5,000-hour head start!
- We are likely to focus only on information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. It’s by far the simplest thing to do in the face of information overload.
- It becomes almost impossible to sort out what’s truly important and what’s not when it comes to climate change and what the big picture looks like.
- We are simply incapable of retaining more than the smallest fraction of the information we need to retain for effective climate change decision-making. What’s worse, the more information we try to ingest, the more we forget.
Knowledge management can be an enormous help in addressing these problems. It can help us overcome our self-imposed filters, force us to question our assumptions, help clarify the nature of and solutions to a problem, and provide ongoing instant access to the knowledge we need.
In addition to these practical problems of information overload, Patterson et al.’s 2007 book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything helps explains why a societal low-carbon transition is happening so slowly. The authors note that anyone making almost any kind of decision is asking themselves the same two questions:
- Is the problem “worth it” to me to try to address through a proposed decision? and,
- Is there reason to believe my decision can influence the outcome I’m interested in?
The magnitude of our climate change problem today is attributable to the fact that policy and business decision-makers with the power to influence policy outcomes have not been able to answer “yes” to these two critical questions when considering climate policy. By association, the voters and investors who influence those decision-makers have not answered “yes” either.
What decision-makers need is “actionable knowledge” that can help them answer the “is it worth it, can I do it” questions shown above. Actionable knowledge is not about reading 500 page reports. Actionable knowledge is required when responding to specific circumstances:
- Interpreting a complicated argument or assertion
- Making a convincing climate action argument to a boss or CEO
- Talking about climate change (or not) with colleagues and family members
- Struggling with how to individually make a difference on climate change
Different decision makers need different actionable knowledge. Local concerns motivate one person; national security issues motivate someone else. One person has a decision-making time frame of 6 months; another looks as far as 100 years into the future. One individual is an activist; the next is a philanthropist. Each frame requires different actionable knowledge when answering the “is it worth it, can I do it” questions. There is no 20-slide PowerPoint deck that can do the job.
Tens of millions of people in the U.S. alone are trying to understand and influence climate change outcomes. Millions are looking for ways to personally contribute to the goal, and can’t find the answers they need. Knowledge management tools that can support better understanding and decision-making literally have the opportunity to help change the course of the planet. The Climate Web is a step in that direction.