The project is complicated, but the problem it seeks to solve is simple: how can we optimize climate activism using the wealth of data available? ClimateTree, inspired by the global Climate Strike student movement, is a platform for sharing climate solutions between areas that face similar challenges. Users can compare their regions and cities by population, environment, carbon emissions, gender and income equality, happiness index and more. Joining all these data sets, users can find analogous communities around the world and draw inspiration from how they address their climate challenges.
“The heart is a good motor,” says ClimateTree project leader Greg, “but it doesn’t give a good map.” ClimateTree aims to provide that map; for those who want to enact climate mitigation where they live, the platform can help optimize the tradeoffs inherent in energy solutions. Plus, ClimateTree users can drill down to identify specific drivers of success and areas of opportunity, bringing them to the attention of their governments with the data to back up policy proposals. Recently, Olympia High School’s climate club used the platform to convince their city authorities to commit to emissions reduction and integrate the students into the management process going forward.
In September of this year, students worldwide walked out of their classrooms in protest of what they saw as an irresponsible level of inactivity from their governments and leaders. Inspired by this energy, the ClimateTree team seeks to address their acute need; how to pinpoint the ROI on specific climate policies and innovations? Now, students are embracing the ClimateTree tool to celebrate their cultural tie-ins across geographical borders and demand shared responsibility. By highlighting the experiences of others, the project fosters collaboration—and competition—among cities and regions, challenging them to stay on the cutting edge of climate mitigation.
At the hackathon, the ClimateTree team spent their day pulling geographic data from the internet and cleaning it up, ensuring standard versions of country names, and otherwise standardizing the data set. They’re looking out for APIs that future project workers (masters students) can plug into to make the project even bigger and better. Using natural language processing, they associated place names with geographical coordinates. They also mined twitter for #climatestrike hotspots and assessed intersectional data to make the filtering systems that are a hallmark of the project.
ClimateTree still needs sponsorship and funding; reach out at DemocracyLab to learn more. In an exciting turn of events, this spring 26 masters students will come together to work on the project and make improvements, so any experience leading high-level student projects is welcome. Any other student activist group that wishes to use the interface and give feedback should reach out and discover how the platform can help them achieve their goals.