Can the Internet save the environment?

March 19, 2009

Could a constant search of the Internet help protect the environment by picking up early hints about pollution or signs of climate change such as desertification, droughts or heatwaves?

A study issued on Thursday hints that it could.

A scuba diver in the South China Sea off Malaysia (above, picture by David Loh of Reuters News) might write a blog if corals looked damaged by ‘bleaching’ — algae that give reefs their colours can start to die off because of higher sea temperatures. It might just turn out that divers far away in Australia, the Caribbean or elsewhere were starting to notice the same thing — perhaps setting off alarm bells about global warming.

“The Internet has the possibility to link up anecdotes to see if there’s a pattern,” said Tim Daw of the University of East Anglia who was among the authors. All that would be needed is an automated trawl of the Internet to pick up the information.

Daw told me, for instance, that he’s from Scotland where villages in the northwest had suffered a population explosion of millipedes. “People have had their houses overrun,” he said. No one knew why.

That sort of pest invasion might make it to a local online newspaper — the sort of snippet that might just fit a wider picture of environmental change, perhaps because of global warming.

Already, outbreaks of disease are tracked online by the Canadian-developed Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), for instance, which picks up many early hints of medical emergencies.

So could an Internet search ever be smart enough to save the planet?


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At the moment the internet is having a negative effect on climate change. It is merely becoming a sparring ground for those who refuse to believe that climate change is man made to dispute scientific studies for their own gain.

Using it in this way would be a step forward, but I think the main problem that is surfacing is that there are so many people who claim they know what is going on, that all conflict each other, so no one knows who to believe anymore.

People are already suffering as a result of climate change

Posted by Global Changes | Report as abusive

Im not sure if I could agree that climate change is infact being influenced by internet usage.

I would agree however that the net is a sparring groung for this issue, but is that such a bad thing? Its my belief that public and global discussion (i.e. internet forum)are a means of promoting awareness of this global issue.

As for conflicting views on research outcomes I totally agree, nobody knows who to believe. I suppose this is where peer scrutiny is difficult, and good science is difficult to achieve.

I also think that another important question in this discussion is who uses the internet? Is it a global population or only a privilaged fraction? Are we (internet users) just pompous armchair activists, or true global environmental warriers?

Posted by Chad2 | Report as abusive

[…] why linked data is the future of the internet, told by the person who invented the world wide web]. This article feels that streams of constant internet searches are the way to accomplish this goal, but I think […]

Posted by Could Constant Internet Searches & Linked Data Save the Planet? | | Greener IdealGreener Ideal | Report as abusive