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Here’s What People Are Asking Google About Climate Change

The visualization reveals what people want to know about the environment

A screenshot of the new visualization from Pitch Interactive and Google News Lab (http://news-lab-trends-experiment.appspot.com/)
smithsonian.com

A new data visualization collaboration shows what people are Googling when they've got questions about the environment. The project comes from a collaboration between Google News Lab and Pitch Interactive, a studio in San Francisco. 

Pitch Interactive’s video shows some of the results. The visualization is clickable on the interactive site and features search phrases from 20 cities around the world. For On Earth, Clara Chaisson reports:

Users can see what each city wants to know about environmental topics like recycling, drinking water, and wildlife, whether those questions have changed over time, and how the curiosities of residents in each place stack up against the rest of the world. Delhi, for example, ranks no. 1 for searches about global warming. Those types of searches peaked in 2007, and top requests include: “What is Global Warming?,” “How to stop global warming?,” and “How is global warming a threat to life on earth?”

Meanwhile, residents of New York City are searching "If there is global warming, why is it so cold?" a query that reflects how the Northeastern U.S. has experienced oddball cold winters while most other places are breaking records with warm temperatures.

“We wanted to show how this big issue looks when viewed through the lens of Google search data. Google data is so big — there are over 3 billion searches a day — that our challenge was how to make those huge numbers meaningful,” Simon Rogers, data editor of the News Lab told Chis Mooney of The Washington Post

Mooney also points out that the data from many of the cities peaks in 2006 to 2007 — reflecting the conversation surrounding climate change generated by Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth" and Nobel Peace Prize. Since then awareness, or Google searches at least, have declined. Perhaps Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical will generate a similar surge in the world’s approximately 1.3 billion Catholics.

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