Users of Google and Google Earth will soon be able to peer into the planet's future, using a variety of climate change scenarios through 2100. In anticipation of the United Nations Climate Change Convention in December, Google is partnering with the Danish government to launch a new component which will allow users to click on different emissions scenarios and time periods as they scroll around the globe.
The climate scenarios are gleaned from data in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Users can find the region of the world they live in and choose a decade they would like to look at, as well as the problem they're interested in (temperature and precipitation change are two choices ready now, but Google plans to add more in coming weeks such as water demand and species turnover.) In a video tour, Al Gore leads viewers through the new climate change options of Google Earth.
The effects of climate change are appearing in the news with alarming frequency. One hopeful result of the Google Earth tool is that people will be able to more immediately see climate change as a real and global problem that cannot be ignored. The option of scrolling through different results from varying emissions scenarios will also give difficult topics a visual component, and one that can be "played" with at home as opposed to a classroom or lecture hall. Another upcoming feature will be a regional "tracker," which will allow users to see what communities around the world are doing to mitigate changes and adapt to those beyond their control.
The news may be bad, but the tools and minds ready to deal with it are heartening! Check back in with Google Earth in the coming weeks to see how the new climate change tool progresses.