The ClimateCongress Wikipedia Project: The next Congress & then 2018
By Felix Kramer & Mike Mielke
We launched the ClimateCongress Wikipedia Project a month before the 2016 elections as a “proof of concept.” We set out to make easily accessible in one place concise, factual, and non-partisan information on what House and Senate incumbents and challengers have said and done about climate change.
Next, having shown what a tiny group of volunteers and part-time researchers can do, we will advance two very ambitious, connected aims. Starting with Congress, then going local, we’ll offer an information tool to help move climate change to the center of public discussion and action. And we will work to infuse Wikipedia — our most universal and democratic information source — with an awareness that in our changing world, the climate-related views and actions of every prominent person says are vitally important.
With enthusiastic crowdsourcers and effective partners, we can advance both goals with modest resources. In mid-November, we’ll explore what’s possible, seeking ideas and support from “climate hawk” co-thinkers in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
We got a start in three months
Then we reached out to activist organizations, We invited their members to ask candidates a simple question: “What will you do about climate change in 2017?” We got glowing coverage in news stories and social media: On Twitter, 350.org founder and author Bill McKibben called us “A useful resource!” Bill Maher retweeted that. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune encouraged his followers to check us out. Moyers & Company and others profiled us.
Our medium- and longer-term goals
We will broaden the project, either as part of another organization or as a freestanding 501(c)3 with partnerships. And through a mix of individual donations and crowdfunding, we will raise modest funds to support our expanded efforts.
For the information at our wiki, we will:
- Via crowdsourcing and updates, add basic information and initial research for all members of the incoming 115th Congress, ideally before they take office January 3, 2017. (We’ll archive articles on all 2016 losing candidates and ex-incumbents, to return to active status if they again become candidates.)
- Closely follow their statements and votes from now on. At this critical moment, a climate-friendly U.S. Congress is the biggest missing piece to get the world off fossil fuels fast enough to keep a healthy climate. In particular, voters will want to know how legislators respond to expected emerging non-partisan breakout initiatives to price carbon.
- Focus early on the 2018 mid-term elections, when 33 Senate and 435 House seats will be contested. We’ll track the views on whether climate change is real and human-caused of incumbents and of challengers as they appear. We’ll track their votes and actions.
- Expand, we hope, to governors and mayors, then to state and local legislators (renaming the project from ClimateCongress).
- Record legislators’ responses to our local climate realities: the air we breathe, the fuel we use, the jobs we create, the water we depend on, the storms and sea levels we monitor.
- Improve the technical functionality, usability, and visibility of the wiki.
To achieve our goals at Wikipedia, we aim to
- Assemble a core SF Bay Area and an extended virtual group of “Climate Wikimedians.” We’ll seek out experienced Wikipedia editors with deep community roots open to the concept of including climate perspectives in more topics in the English-language and then global Wikipedia.
- Explore ways to address concerns that concept raises about core Wikipedia principles, including Reliable sources and undue weight and Neutral point of view.
- Facilitate knowledgeable Wikipedia editors and volunteers as they migrate, from our wiki to Wikipedia, key summary data on members of the 115th Congress.
- Starting with elected officials and candidates, then moving beyond that, introduce for discussion and action among Wikimedians, the goal of adding climate change dimensions to articles for all living public figures involved in political/community/academic/cultural pursuits. This will contribute in ways we can’t now imagine to national and even global dialogues.
The ClimateCongress Wikipedia Project can be a key component in building public awareness about the urgency of the climate challenge, and the need to act decisively now. We can start now to influence what legislators and other public leaders say and do about climate change. We’d love to hear from you!