Why it’s Important to Democratize Climate Information
— Especially for the most vulnerable
I had the pleasure of writing a piece with one of my “Undivide Project” colleagues about the need to democratize climate information. In short, communities often lack the necessary resources and access to information to adequately address and adapt to climate change. Therefore, democratizing climate change information is crucial to ensure that everyone, including those in low-income countries and communities, has access to the knowledge needed to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
But here, I want to expand on that notion a bit more. Kleoniki Thedoridou is a geologist who has been working with us on an expansive climate mapping project which focuses on frontline communities in the U.S. Gulf. She is also the editor of the “Blogs of the European Geosciences Union.” The blogs are usually from scientists working in the natural sciences on a variety of topics. Thanks to my colleague’s advocacy and editorial skills, I was able to interlope for a bit and make my case for why we need to democratise climate information. When I say “democratize” I mean that we have to make information about climate change and associated phenomena widely available and accessible.
One of the arguments I make is that democratizing climate change information is essential because it empowers divested communities in low-income countries to take necessary action against climate change. These communities are most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts, including rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and prolonged droughts, among others. Yet, they often lack the necessary information and resources to adapt to these changes. When these communities have access to climate change information, they can better understand the changes taking place, assess their vulnerability, and identify ways to mitigate the risks.
For example, farmers in low-income countries can use more accurate weather forecasting to plan their crop cycles and mitigate losses due to drought or floods.
This relates directly back to our work in the states along the Gulf Coast of the United States. The states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are some of the most climate vulnerable in the United States and Louisiana’s exposure to climate risk and displacement ranks alongside underdeveloped global countries. At The Undivide Project, we are working to help map that risk for poor communities and share information in different formats and languages directly to communities. Then, our team will work with them to help co-design a plan that reflects their vision of climate resilience.
The core inspiration or foundation for this effort is my remembrance of family members that farmed or fished using the Farmer’s almanac. They used this “manual for weather cycles” to make decisions about planting and harvesting. The beauty of the almanac is its clarity and ease of use. It is an example peer level information sharing and other informal, but usable, data presentations. If we want climate action to work at all levels of society, it is important that scholars divorce ourselves from elitist communication styles and meet people where they live, work and make daily decisions.
Scientific information has to be useful, accessible and usable to communities. It has to be delivered in ways that can be adjusted for social and cultural norms rather than forcing broad-based concepts on them. And finally, it has to honor communities’ ability to make informed decisions and effectuate change at a local level. But that can only happen if we make the move to share in a way that makes sense.