The built environment cannot be left behind if we want to adapt our cities and villages to climate change. The basis for such actions should be knowledge, which is why the Climate Knowledge Base was created. We talk about why it's important to fight fake news and how the database can be useful to architects with Anna Sieworek from Purpose Climate Lab - one of the institutes co-creating the database.
Wiktor Bochenek: How did the idea to create a climate knowledge base come about?
Anna Sieworek: 2023 began with a record high, basically spring air temperature, which in some areas of Poland reached almost 19 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the United States struggled with violent snowstorms that killed at least 60 people. In just a few days of the new year, we have already experienced numerous weather anomalies as a result of progressive climate change.
And this is just the beginning... Since climate change is becoming more visible to the naked eye and we are experiencing its effects more strongly on our own skin, interest in the topic is clearly growing. A side effect of this mass interest is climate disinformation. This means that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood and reliable knowledge from opinion. This is compounded by the spread of conspiracy theories, a lack of ability to verify information, and a decreasing public trust in scientific authorities. The Climate Knowledge Base is our response to this problem, which we have seen growing for several years now. Fortunately, we also see a public need for obtaining knowledge on climate-related topics, as well as verifying various opinions in this area. The main goal behind the creation of the Climate Knowledge Base was to raise awareness of climate change and to combat disinformation and climate denialism.
The idea for the Climate Knowledge Base was conceived back in 2021, as a result of observing the rising tide of disinformation on climate. We invited experts from leading NGOs, research institutions and academic centers dealing with disinformation and climate change issues to join the project. Together we created a database design, an information verification scheme and filled this digital tool with content.
Climate change issues are among one of the biggest challenges facing the world
photo by Markus Spike, CC BY-SA 0
Victor:How to use this database? What can we find in it?
Anna: The Climate Knowledgebase is a publicly available, free online tool with up-to-date and reliable sources of information on climate change issues. Verified reports and publications are accompanied by a short commentary, making it easier to understand the often not easy to read scientific content. Using the database is very intuitive - depending on your needs, content can be sorted by date of addition or hashtag. Each entry in the database links to original sources, where you can look for more detailed knowledge. In the process of building the tool, we placed particular emphasis on creating an easy-to-navigate information architecture so that users can quickly find what they are looking for.
The database is based only on verified sources of knowledge.
© Climate Knowledge Base
Wiktor: How do you combat fake news in the age of "fast information"?
Anna: During the wave of disinformation flooding Poland, including climate disinformation, a special role is played by reliable, credible, verified sources of information. It is worth getting to know these sources and develop the habit of verifying information through them, and thus unlearn how to carry out this process among friends or on random sites on the Internet. Another very important, and incidentally simple, step is to refrain from sharing information about which we have, at least a shadow of a doubt, whether it is true. In particular, this should apply to articles with flashy, emotional or controversial titles. We can take such actions individually and contribute to reducing the wave of disinformation, but of course, a great responsibility lies with journalists, publicists or politicians.
The Climate Knowledge Base is intended to be one of the sources that provide quick access to verified, reliable knowledge. It is also worth getting acquainted with organizations that professionally deal with fact checking and deal with myths and misinformation on a daily basis. One of them is the Demagogue Association, whose representatives are among the experts of the Climate Knowledge Base.
Victor: What is the biggest problem in talking about climate change today?
Anna: One of the big problems, as with other science-related topics, is the crisis of authority. A tired and stressed-out society is often more willing to trust popular faces from the internet than serious professors. Consider that we have been in a constant crisis since 2020 - first the coronavirus, the economic crisis, the outbreak of war and a huge security scare, today the specter of recession. No wonder people are fed up with negative news.
Under these conditions, sounding the alarm about galloping climate change, as well as calling for the implementation of changes, is extremely difficult. Moreover, people are increasingly aware that individual changes in habits will not save the world. So they expect change from policymakers and the business world, shifting responsibility away from themselves, forgetting for a moment the consequences of such action. Another major challenge is the complexity of the topic and language describing climate issues. With this in mind, when creating the database, the idea was to provide users with simplified summaries of reports and analyses and thus bring them closer to these often overwhelming and difficult to understand issues.
In the database we can search by key. For architects and architects, sections such as emissions or urban and rural will certainly come in handy
© Climate Knowledge Base
Wiktor: We are an architectural portal, so it is worth asking whether the database will be useful for architects and urban planners?
Anna: On the one hand, poorly designed cities strongly contribute to climate change, on the other hand, their inhabitants will be very much affected by these changes, so I even see the necessity for architects and urban planners to be interested in this topic. This applies whether it's sustainable transportation, urban greenery, access to water or the impact of development on air quality. Quality of urban life and the fight against climate change actually have a lot in common.
What's more, the Climate Knowledge Base can be particularly useful to those who are required to know about "any topic," i.e. opinion leaders in the broad sense, journalists, scientists, politicians. It is worth knowing, however, that it is a tool for anyone who wants to know and understand more about climate change. The task of the editors overseeing the database is not only to select the most interesting scientific studies on climate, but also to describe them in such a way that their content is understandable to the average Internet user. Therefore, I hope that the content will be of interest to your Readers, whom I cordially invite to use the Base!
Victor: Thank you for the interview!