Creating Climate Knowledge for You on Patreon

I have been working on responses to climate change and climate change decision-making for almost 30 years. I’ve served on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but most of my career has been spent working with organizations around the world on everything to do with climate change.

Whether calling it climate change or global warming, almost all climate scientists characterize as dangerous our departure from the “climatic normal” human societies have evolved within over the last 10,000 years. But if it’s that dangerous, why haven’t we done more to prevent it?

One reason is the enormous gap between our collective knowledge about climate change and individual decision-making when it comes to climate change, as reflected in Carla O’Dell’s “[I]f only we knew what we know” quote. Notwithstanding and to some extent because of virtually unlimited collective knowledge regarding the science, risks, and solutions to climate change, individuals rarely spot the “actionable knowledge” that would significantly influence their decisions as concerned citizens, business executives, or policy makers.

Inadequate access to actionable climate knowledge is the biggest barrier we face in tackling climate change, and it is only getting harder every year. Your social media streams do little but confirm your current views. Google almost any climate-relevant search term or question and you’ll get millions of hits. How many do you look at? How much of the information do you remember a month later?

Based on our 20+ years working on climate change, and a longstanding interest in knowledge management, about six years ago my environmental lawyer wife and I started building an “actionable knowledge” solution for climate change. We call it the Climate Web. It uses TheBrain® software to organize information in ways that make it accessible to anyone interested in climate change, from concerned citizens and philanthropists to business executives and policy makers. It starts by linking more than 40,000 books, reports, journal articles, news stories, videos, and websites, with new materials added almost daily. But the Climate Web also does much more, extracting and linking together thousands of individual ideas and powerful graphics that can help deliver knowledge that can influence perceptions and decisions.


In the process of building the Climate Web I suspect we’ve read more climate-related literature, visited more climate-related websites, and watched more climate-related videos than any other two people on the planet. The Climate Web has turned into a massive resource that we’re confident can help make a difference on climate change.

We have gone to great lengths to make the Climate Web an open-access resource that anyone can use. Want to learn about climate science, how to communicate climate change, or what experts are forecasting when it comes to a low-carbon transition? It’s in the Climate Web. Want to find out what experts are saying about carbon pricing and cap-and-trade policy? It’s in the Climate Web. In fact, if there is an answer to climate change it’s probably in the Climate Web! The Climate Web can save you hours, days, or even more of your time. It can point you to great resources you would never otherwise see. It can help you think about climate change or climate change solutions in a completely new way. It can provide you with all kinds of new resources for communicating with or teaching others about climate change.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what you can find in the Climate Web. Its sheer size is the biggest challenge users face in using the Climate Web. After investing 16,000 hours in building the Climate Web, this Patreon project has two goals: 1) to help us keep the Climate Web open access; and 2) to help users more easily access their specific actionable knowledge in the Climate Web.

The solution is Climate Web Doorways:

  • Audience Doorways lead to curated collections aimed at the needs of particular user audiences, from “Concerned Individuals” to “Corporate Risk Managers” and “K-12 Teachers.”
  • Topic Doorways lead to curated collections that help you understand and track important climate topics, from a “2oC Climate Target” to the “Water-Food-Energy Nexus” and “Extreme Events.”
  • Personal Doorways lead to curated collections customized for individual users, and can include an eclectic collection of nodes from all over the Climate Web.

Doorways mean you don’t have to try and keep track of where you saw great resources in the Climate Web, and retrace your steps every time you go in. You can jump there instantly through your URL-based personal doorway!

Watch a video that helps you select the Doorway(s) of most value to you:

All supporters of our Patreon project will receive customized access to Climate Web information. Take a look at the different levels of support, and pick the one that best suits your interests. Choose your preferred Audience, Topic, or Dashboard Doorways, or contents for your Personal Doorway, from this list (which replicates what you just saw on the video)!

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We believe that the Climate Web can help thousands of individuals and organizations be more effective in advancing their climate change goals, and advance our collective goal of slowing climate change and accelerating a low-carbon transition. Will you help us continue to use our time and expertise to build and expand the Climate Web as an open access resource, and give anyone who’s interested a 16,000 hour head start on their goals? Thank you!

Actionable Knowledge for Climate Progress

head sculpture with open top and a brain being plugged in

This is Part 3 of this blog series. In Part 1, I asked, “do we really intend to do something about climate change?” Part 2 asked “if so, does information matter?” Part 3 asks, “can I find the information I need?”

The idea of actionable climate knowledge reflects the reality that an individual making a climate-relevant decision is doing so on the basis of her ability to answer the two questions that govern all human decision-making: “is it worth it,” and “can I do it?” Each of us uses different information to answer the two questions, and it has to be extracted from the information deluge that crashes over us every day.

Here’s a great (non-climate) example of information that has been organized into actionable knowledge (thanks to Patrick McKercher):

“Andrea, an accounts manager at an investment firm, wakes up to learn from CNN that an Asian banking scandal is strangling venture capital flows and causing loans to be called in prematurely.

Andrea accesses her company’s TheBrain™-based proprietary Knowledge Web to scan her company’s Asian partners and holdings. Clicking on the link to the Royal Bank of Hong Kong (RBHK), the hardest hit bank according to CNN, she is relieved to find that relatively few of her own clients are linked to RBHK, and that her company’s overall exposure to the crisis is modest.

She clicks through the Knowledge Web to show all clients with loans from the Royal Bank of Hong Kong that missed their financial targets in last 36 months, revealing just one client, Tsingtao Telecommunications. Pulling up her company’s current Asia strategy from the Knowledge Web she sees that Tsingtao is an important part of that strategy, and that Tsingtao is linked to other clients in Sweden, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Andrea then sets about using the Knowledge Web to help solve her client’s problem. She can see that Tsingtao switched its banking to RBHK from Cathay Bank four years ago. From her “people network” within the Knowledge Web she discovers that Alejandro (who graduated from the Haas Business School at UCB a few years after she did) now works at Cathay Bank. She calls Alejandro and finds out that after getting poor returns in real estate, Cathay wants to diversify and is interested in reclaiming lost customers. Cathay soon offers Tsingtao a bridge loan at very favorable rates, and Andrea receives a generous bonus at her next review.”

Most of us are likely envious of the Knowledge Web Andrea was able to draw upon, and in fact knowledge management is big business. Andrea’s TheBrain™ software is actually in use by many Fortune 100 companies, and by agencies like the Department of Defense and the CIA. Most of us, however, create elaborate electronic file folder systems full of reports, news stories, and websites that we’re sure we’ll need in the future. A good substitute? Not even close, and when we do need information we’re often left searching the internet for “that great piece” we vaguely remember seeing six months before. Unfortunately, when it comes to a topic like climate change, almost any climate-related search term will generate millions of hits. That’s the antithesis of individual-specific actionable knowledge.

The actionable knowledge we need is almost certainly out there. Woodrow Wilson supposedly said that “there is no idea in our heads that has not been worn shiny by someone else’s brain.” It’s a great quote, whoever said it. There’s almost no question that the internet holds what you need, already “worn shiny by someone else’s brain.” The problem is finding it! As reflected in knowledge management expert Carla O’Dell musing: “If only we knew what we know.”

Those simple seven words go a long ways toward explaining why we’re headed for between 3.5 and 6.0 degrees C of climate change, a level of change that will wreak havoc on the natural and managed systems upon which human societies depend.  It’s not that the information and actionable knowledge we need to make better decisions about climate change doesn’t exist – we’re deluged with climate-relevant information. The problem is that the relevant decision-makers either never encounter “their” actionable knowledge, or have forgotten it by the time they need it.

Let me give you a personal example. I saw a news story today that referred to the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition’s recent Report on the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices. Since carbon pricing is an area of personal expertise, I figured I should track it down. The report sounded familiar, and when I found the document I even recognized its cover. But I had no recollection of whether I’d read the report.

But like Andrea and the CIA, I have a Knowledge Web built with TheBrain™ software. The Climate Web links together more than 1,000 books, 2,000 videos, 15,000 reports and articles, 25,000 news stories, 3,000 websites, 2,000 topical experts, as well as 10’s of thousands of individually extracted ideas and graphics. 1,500 index entries instantly take me to potentially actionable knowledge on any climate topic, basically putting the entire topic of climate change into my short-term memory.  Calling up the Report of the High-Level Commission on Carbon Prices, it turns out I had read it and linked 30 key ideas and graphics into the Climate Web’s Carbon Pricing Deep Dive. Replicate that thousands of times and you’ll have a sense of how the Climate Web beats Google on actionable knowledge.

For a visual introduction to what I’m talking about, this video explores how the Center for Climate and Security’s recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene,” is integrated into the Climate and Security Deep Dive of the Climate Web.



In Part 1 of this blog series I used the metaphor of a 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle to represent the climate change challenge, and urged people really wanting to make a difference on climate change to go to “jigsaw puzzle school.” The Climate Web IS jigsaw puzzle school, and we’ve kept it public access to facilitate faster completion of the puzzle. The web-based version of TheBrain™ software through which you can access the Climate Web, however, is less powerful than the desktop software. To accomplish the actionable knowledge miracles that Andrea was able to, or that we’re able to with the Climate Web, you’d want to develop your own Knowledge Web “fitted” to your own brain.

If you’re working on climate change, however, we can greatly simplify the process. We can use topical modules from the Climate Web to help you construct your own Knowledge Web, saving you hundreds or even thousands of hours. After that you’re free to take your Knowledge Web in any direction that makes sense for you.

Helping you build your own Knowledge Web is just one of many ways the Climate Web can help advance your climate-relevant goals. Whether you’re an individual, a business leader, a researcher, a philanthropist, or a consultant/lawyer, the Climate Web is an unparalleled actionable knowledge resource for climate issues, climate risks, and climate solutions. If you’re involved in any way with the 1,000,000 piece climate change jigsaw puzzle, you should take advantage of the Climate Web.


This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Support the Climate Web on Patreon!

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Does Information Matter for Completing the 1,000,000 Piece Climate Jigsaw Puzzle?

men discussing 1,000,000 piece puzzle to solve climate change

This is part 2 of a 3-part blog. The first part is here, where I explored some of the reasons we’re doing so poorly at completing the 1,000,000 piece climate jigsaw puzzle envisioned by Australian cartoonist Neil Matterson in 2008, a cartoon that remains as relevant today as it was nine years ago.

I concluded Part 1 suggesting that people who want to influence climate change outcomes should attend Climate Puzzle School to learn more about the unique challenges of completing a 1,000,000 piece puzzle, and how they can help beyond the individual puzzle piece they may already be working on.

My “The Great Wall” cartoon zeroes in on one of the most important topics for Puzzle School to cover, namely how to help climate change decision-makers get the  “is it worth it?” and “can I do it?” information  that underlies all human decision-making (see Grenny and Paterson’s 2013 book, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything). Answers to those two critical questions need to find their way from the “growing mountain of climate change information” through, over, or under “The Great Wall” to individuals making climate-relevant decisions.

The challenge doesn’t stem from an information shortage — rather, it’s the opposite. Individuals working on the 1,000,000 piece climate jigsaw puzzle are a veritable information generating machine, using thousands of venues to generate and distribute a virtual infinity of climate-relevant information. From books to reports to videos, blogs, and news stories, any decision-maker with any interest in the topic will likely find herself deluged with information.

The “Great Wall” in my cartoon is obviously metaphorical, but it might as well be as real. Enormous quantities of information do spill over the wall, one symptom of which is that decision-makers turn up millions of hits in connection with any online search. Regardless of whether that decision-maker is an individual purchasing a car, a business executive interested in assessing climate risks, or a policy-maker considering a legislative proposal, the likelihood that he or she will ever see the best available answers to their own “is it worth it, can I do it?” questions is vanishingly small. This in turn dramatically  biases decision-making outcomes against being as climate-friendly” as they could be.

Information overload is certainly important in explaining our relative lack of action on climate change as suggested by Neil Matterson’s 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle cartoon. But the communications challenge goes deeper. Most communication of climate information is premised on the idea of “rational dialogue” in which anyone can be “brought around” on climate change if supplied with enough factual information. Perhaps not surprisingly, most climate communication therefore focuses on constituencies who have not embraced an aggressive response to climate change. Yet we know from two decades of behavioral economics research that this “rational dialogue” assumption couldn’t be more wrong. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman (often referred to as the father of behavioral economics) characterizes human responses to information inputs as falling into one of two categories: System 1 or System 2. Most human decision-making is reactive and automatic System 1 thinking. Only a small fraction of information inputs get sent up the cognitive chain for System 2 consideration and processing.

Most climate communications assume a System 2 response, which is why we assume that more factual information will eventually get almost anyone to “see the light.” But no one is ever the bad guy in their own mind; everyone believes they have already “seen the light.” Everyone’s System 1 brains filter most of the climate-relevant information they receive to fit their mental models and world view; it rarely moves on to System 2.

In other words, incentivizing better climate change decision-making isn’t about generating and delivering enough information to turn “bad decision-makers” into “good decision-makers.” It’s about getting information in front of decision-makers that goes to their “is it worth it, can I do it?” questions, and that triggers their System 2 decision-making process. Access to “actionable knowledge” might result in a different decision-making behavioral outcome. But recognizing the importance of “actionable knowledge” also illustrates the real communications challenge. Almost infinite information exists, but how do individual decision-makers find the specific actionable knowledge they would use to make more climate friendly decisions?

The “more is better” model that drives most climate communications today has become counter-productive. If we want to move the 1,000,000 piece climate jigsaw puzzle closer to completion — i.e., closer to real environmental benefits and action on climate change — we need to recognize the importance of facilitating access to “actionable knowledge.” Importantly, the need for improved actionable knowledge access applies just as much to individuals already working on the 1,000,000 piece climate change jigsaw puzzle as it does to individuals skeptical of climate change and climate action.

As I argued in Part 1 of this blog, individuals working on the puzzle are as much a part of the problem Pogo described in 1971 (“we have met the enemy, and he is us”) as almost anyone else. Yet it should be easier to get individuals already working on the puzzle to become more effective in contributing to puzzle progress, than to try and use information to change the worldview of individuals skeptical of climate change and climate action.

If the goal is actionable knowledge, perhaps knowledge management approaches and tools are part of the solution? I explore this question in this short video that shows how thinking of climate information flows as a system can illustrate the relationship of climate information to climate progress or the lack thereof.

The video suggests that without a knowledge management function, information overload takes over and sabotages progress on climate change. Inserting a new node into the system representing knowledge management fundamentally changes how the system works. (FYI, the “Loopy” software I used to design the climate information systems in the video was recently developed by Nicky Case. You can see and play with the original systems diagrams: here (for the without knowledge management case) and here (for the with knowledge management case). Feel free to improve my depiction of the climate information system and send it back to me. The idea of the Loopy software is to encourage conversations about systems using easy to build systems diagrams. A great idea!)

I’m certainly not arguing that knowledge management is the “silver bullet” for completing the 1,000,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. But knowledge management training IS likely to be a critical component of any Climate Puzzle School. What’s the status of knowledge management for supporting climate change decision-making? I’ll explore that in Part 3 of this blog.