Fighting Climate Change: The Role of Norms, Preferences, and Moral Values


Paper by Armin Falk: “We document individual willingness to fight climate change and its behavioral determinants in a large representative sample of US adults. Willingness to fight climate change – as measured through an incentivized donation decision – is highly heterogeneous across the population. Individual beliefs about social norms, economic preferences such as patience and altruism, as well as universal moral values positively predict climate preferences. Moreover, we document systematic misperceptions of prevalent social norms. Respondents vastly underestimate the prevalence of climate- friendly behaviors and norms among their fellow citizens. Providing respondents with correct information causally raises individual willingness to fight climate change as well as individual support for climate policies. The effects are strongest for individuals who are skeptical about the existence and threat of global warming…(More)”.

Realtime Climate


Climate Central …:”launched this tool to help meteorologists and journalists cover connections between weather, news, and climate in real time, and to alert public and private organizations and individuals about particular local conditions related to climate change, its impacts, or its solutions.

Realtime Climate monitors local weather and events across the U.S. and generates alerts when certain conditions are met or expected. These alerts provide links to science-based analyses and visualizations—including locality-specific, high-quality graphics—that can help explain events in the context of climate change….

Alerts are sent when particular conditions occur or are forecast to occur in the next few days. Examples include:

  • Unusual heat (single day and multi-day)
  • Heat Index
  • Unusual Rainfall
  • Coastal Flooding
  • Air Quality
  • Allergies
  • Seasonal shifts (spring leaf-out, etc.)
  • Ice/snow cover (Great Lakes)
  • Cicadas
  • High local or regional production of solar or wind energy

More conditions will be added soon, including:

  • Drought
  • Wildfire
  • and many more…(More)”.

How volunteer observers can help protect biodiversity


The Economist: “Ecology lends itself to being helped along by the keen layperson perhaps more than any other science. For decades, birdwatchers have recorded their sightings and sent them to organisations like Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, or the Audubon society in America, contributing precious data about population size, trends, behaviour and migration. These days, any smartphone connected to the internet can be pointed at a plant to identify a species and add a record to a regional data set.

Social-media platforms have further transformed things, adding big data to weekend ecology. In 2002, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York created eBird, a free app available in more than 30 languages that lets twitchers upload and share pictures and recordings of birds, labelled by time, location and other criteria. More than 100m sightings are now uploaded annually, and the number is growing by 20% each year. In May the group marked its billionth observation. The Cornell group also runs an audio library with 1m bird calls, and the Merlin app, which uses eBird data to identify species from pictures and descriptions….(More)”.

Help us identify how data can make food healthier for us and the environment


The GovLab: “To make food production, distribution, and consumption healthier for people, animals, and the environment, we need to redesign today’s food systems. Data and data science can help us develop sustainable solutions — but only if we manage to define those questions that matter.

Globally, we are witnessing the damage that unsustainable farming practices have caused on the environment. At the same time, climate change is making our food systems more fragile, while the global population continues to rapidly increase. To feed everyone, we need to become more sustainable in our approach to producing, consuming, and disposing of food.

Policymakers and stakeholders need to work together to reimagine food systems and collectively make them more resilient, healthy, and inclusive.

Data will be integral to understanding where failures and vulnerabilities exist and what methods are needed to rectify them. Yet, the insights generated from data are only as good as the questions they seek to answer. To become smarter about current and future food systems using data, we need to ask the right questions first.

That’s where The 100 Questions Initiative comes in. It starts from the premise that to leverage data in a responsible and effective manner, data initiatives should be driven by demand, not supply. Working with a global cohort of experts, The 100 Questions seeks to map the most pressing and potentially impactful questions that data and data science can answer.

Today the Barilla Foundation, the Center for European Policy Studies, and The Governance Lab at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, are announcing the launch of the Food Systems Sustainability domain of The 100 Questions. We seek to identify the 10 most important questions that need to be answered to make food systems more sustainable…(More)”.

Deepfake Maps Could Really Mess With Your Sense of the World


Will Knight at Wired: “Satellite images showing the expansion of large detention camps in Xinjiang, China, between 2016 and 2018 provided some of the strongest evidence of a government crackdown on more than a million Muslims, triggering international condemnation and sanctions.

Other aerial images—of nuclear installations in Iran and missile sites in North Korea, for example—have had a similar impact on world events. Now, image-manipulation tools made possible by artificial intelligence may make it harder to accept such images at face value.

In a paper published online last month, University of Washington professor Bo Zhao employed AI techniques similar to those used to create so-called deepfakes to alter satellite images of several cities. Zhao and colleagues swapped features between images of Seattle and Beijing to show buildings where there are none in Seattle and to remove structures and replace them with greenery in Beijing.

Zhao used an algorithm called CycleGAN to manipulate satellite photos. The algorithm, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley, has been widely used for all sorts of image trickery. It trains an artificial neural network to recognize the key characteristics of certain images, such as a style of painting or the features on a particular type of map. Another algorithm then helps refine the performance of the first by trying to detect when an image has been manipulated….(More)”.

Establishing a Data Trust: From Concept to Reality


Blog by Stefaan Verhulst, Aditi Ramesh & Andrew Young, Peter Rabley & Christopher Keefe: “As ever-more areas of our public and private lives succumb to a process of datafication, it is becoming increasingly urgent to find new ways of managing the data lifecycle: how data is collected, stored, used, and reused. In particular, legacy notions of control and data access need to be reimagined for the twenty-first century, in ways that give more prominence to the public good and common interests – in a manner that is responsible and sustainable. That is particularly true for mapping data which is why The GovLab and FutureState, with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, are partnering with PLACE to assist them in designing a new operational and governance approach for creating, storing and accessing mapping data: a Data Trust. 

PLACE is a non-profit formed out of a belief that mapping data is an integral part of the modern digital ecosystem and critical to unlocking economic, social and environmental opportunities for sustainable and equitable growth, development and climate resiliency; however, this data is not available or affordable in too many places around the world. PLACE’s goal is to bridge this part of the digital divide.

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Five key considerations inform the design of such a new framework:

  • Governing Data as a Commons: The work of Elinor Ostrom (among others) has highlighted models that go beyond private ownership and management. As a non-excludable and non-rivalrous asset, data fits this model well: one entity’s control or “ownership” of data doesn’t limit another entity’s (non-excludable); and one entity’s consumption or use of data doesn’t prevent another entity from similarly doing so (non-rivalrous). A new framework for governance would emphasize the central role of  “data as a commons.”
  • Avoiding a “Tragedy of the Commons”: Any commons is susceptible to a “tragedy of the commons”: a phenomenon in which entities or individuals free-ride on shared resources, depleting their value or usability for all, resulting in a failure to invest in maintenance, improvement and innovation and in the process contributing negatively to the public interest . Any reimagined model for data governance needs to acknowledge this risk, and build in methods and processes to avoid a tragedy of the commons and ensure “data sustainability.” As further described below we believe that sustainability can best be achieved through a membership model.
  • Tackling Data Asymmetries and Re-Distribution of Responsibilities: Everyone is a participant in today’s “data commons,” but not all stakeholders benefit equally. One way to ensure the sustainability of a data commons is to require that larger players—e.g., the most profitable platforms, and other entities that disproportionately benefit from network effects—assume greater responsibilities to maintain the commons. These responsibilities can take many forms—financial, technical know-how, regulatory or legal prowess—and will vary by entity and each entity’s specialization. The general idea is that all stakeholders should have equal rights and access—but some will have greater responsibilities and may be required to contribute more.
  • Independent Trustees and Strong Engagement: Who should govern the data as a commons? Another way to avoid a tragedy of the commons is to ensure that a clear set of rules, principles and guidelines determine what is acceptable (and not), and what constitutes fair play and reasonable data access and use. These guidelines should be designed and administered by independent trustees, whose responsibilities, powers, terms and selection mechanisms are clearly defined and bounded. The trustees should be drawn from across geographies and sectors, representing as wide a range of interests and expertise as possible.In addition, trustees should steer responsible data access in a manner that is informed by input from experts, stakeholders, data subjects, and intended beneficiaries, using innovative ways of engagement and deliberations.
  • Inclusion and Protection: A data trust designed for the commons must “work” for all and especially the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. The identity of some people and communities is inextricably linked to location and, therefore, requires us to be especially mindful of the risks of abuse for such communities. How can we prevent surveillance or bias against indigenous groups, for example? Equally important, how can we empower communities with more understanding of and voice in how data is collected and used about their place? Such communities are front-and-center in the design of the Trust and its governance….(More)”.

The Tragedy of Climate Change


Essay by Bryan Doerries: “How terrible it is to know when, in the end, knowing gains you nothing,” laments the blind prophet Tiresias in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King. Oedipus had summoned him to reveal the source of the pestilence and ecological disaster ravaging Thebes. But Tiresias knew that the king would reject the truth. Today’s climate scientists and epidemiologists can relate.

Like Tiresias, modern-day scientists know where the planet is headed and why. They found out not through prophecies, but through countless double-blind experiments, randomized trials, and rigorous peer review. Their evidence is unimpeachable, and the consensus among them is overwhelming. But their secular augury cannot seem to overcome the willful indifference of politicians or the public. Knowing gains them nothing, because so few are listening.

If there is a way for scientists to get through to people and their leaders, the key will be to change not what they say, but how they say it. The language of science is dispassionate by design. By contrast, the manifold crises our planet faces are urgent and intense, and the individual and collective decisions that are fueling those crises have high emotional and ethical stakes. A virulent pandemic has taken the lives of three million people. The Earth is in the throes of a sixth mass extinction. And the problems are set to escalate.

We need a language to convey the gravity and complexity of the global tragedy that is unfolding, and the ancient Greeks supply it. Their tragedies are stories of people learning too late (usually by milliseconds). Their characters doggedly pursue what they believe to be right, barely comprehending the forces they face – chance, fate, habits, governments, gods, the weather. By the time they do, the characters have unwittingly made an irreversible – and devastating – mistake.

For centuries, Greek tragedies have been viewed as pessimistic expressions of a fatalistic society, which depict the futility of fighting destiny. But, for the Greeks, the effect of these stories may have been counterintuitive. By showing people just how narrow and fleeting their power to determine their own future was, the tragedies discouraged apathy. Highlighting how devastating self-delusion can be encouraged awareness. And providing the language for describing difficult experiences enhanced agency….(More)”

Open data for improved land governance


Guide by the Land Portal: “This Open Up Guide on Land Governance is a resource  aimed to be used by governments from developing countries to collect and release land-related data to improve data quality, availability, accessibility and use for improved citizen engagement, decision making and innovation. It sets out:

  1. Key datasets for land management accountability, and how they should be collected, stored, shared and published for improving land governance and transparency;
  2. Good data policies and frameworks, including metadata, standards and governance frameworks if available;
  3. Existing gaps or challenges in the policies and frameworks; and
  4. Use cases from real-life examples to illustrate the potential impact and transformation this type of data can provide in local contexts.

The Open Up Guide has been prepared for use by national and local government agencies with a mandate for or an interest in making their land governance data open and available for others to re-use. Land governance data generally comprises the data and information that agencies collect as they carry out their core land administration functions of land tenure, use, development and value. Some countries already collect and manage their land governance data in open and re-usable formats. Others may be seeking advice on how to start, how to expand their activities or how to test what they do against best practice.

Open land governance data, published in accordance with a government’s law and regulations, provides efficient and transparent government services and enables individuals, communities and businesses to run their lives ethically and with integrity.

The Guide is also intended to assist communities monitoring whether environmental protections are being upheld, and to support rights claims over geographical areas inhabited for generations; and for civil society organisations that can make use of land governance data to understand patterns of land deals, support environmental and social advocacy, and investigate and address corruption….(More)”.

To Map Billions of Cicadas, It Takes Thousands of Citizen Scientists


Article by Linda Poon and Marie Patino: “At the end of May, Dan Mozgai will spend his vacation from his day job chasing cicadas. The bugs won’t be hard to find; in about a week, billions of the beady-eyed crawlers from Brood X will start coming up from their 17-year-long underground, blanketing parts of 15 states in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest with their cacophony of shrill mating calls. 

Mozgai isn’t an entomologist — he does online marketing for DirecTV. But since2007, he’s worked closely with academic researchers to track various broods of periodical cicadas,as part of one of the oldest citizen science efforts in the U.S. 

He’ll be joined by ten of thousands of other volunteers across the Brood X territory who will use the mobile app Cicada Safari, where userscan add geotagged photos and videos onto a live map, as dozens of student researchers behind the scenes verify each submission. Videos will be especially helpful this year, as it provides audio data for the researchers, says Gene Kritsky, an entomologist at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, and the creator behind Cicada Safari. He’s been testing the new app with smaller broods for two years in anticipation for this moment. https://0b26ee1773bac5736a29111147e28a6b.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Brood X,  is one of the largest, and mostly broadly distributed geographically, of periodical cicadas, which emerge every 13 or 17 years. They’ll stick around for just a few weeks, through June, to mate and lay eggs.

“With the smartphone technology and the GPS location services, it was just a perfect way to do citizen science,” Kritsky says. Some 87,000 people have signed up as of the beginning of May, and they’ve already documented several early risers, especially around Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. — two of the expected hotspot…(More)”.

Citizen Science Is Helping Tackle Stinky Cities


Article by Lucrezia Lozza: “Marta has lived with a bad smell lingering in her hometown in central Spain, Villanueva del Pardillo, for a long time. Fed up, in 2017 she and her neighbors decided to pursue the issue. “The smell is disgusting,” Marta says, pointing a finger at a local yeast factory.

Originally, she thought of recording the “bad smell days” on a spreadsheet. When this didn’t work out, after some research she found Odour Collect, a crowdsourced map that allows users to enter a geolocalized timestamp of bad smells in their neighborhood.

After noise, odor nuisances are the second cause of environmental complaints. Odor regulations vary among countries and there’s little legislation about how to manage smells. For instance, in Spain some municipalities regulate odors, but others do not. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate odor as a pollutant, so states and local jurisdictions are in charge of the issue.

Only after Marta started using Odour Collect to record the unpleasant smells in her town did she discover that the map was part of ‘D-NOSES’, a European project aimed at bringing citizens, industries and local authorities together to monitor and minimize odor nuisances. D-NOSES relies heavily on citizen science: Affected communities gather odor observations through two maps — Odour Collect and Community Maps — with the goal of implementing new policies in their area. D-NOSES launched several pilots in Europe — in Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, and Portugal — and two outside the continent in Uganda and in Chile.

“Citizen science promotes transparency between all the actors,” said Nora Salas Seoane, Social Sciences Researcher at Fundación Ibercivis, one of the partners of D-NOSES…(More)”.