Imagining a smarter world – how to build the climate knowledge grid

04-11-2014, London, United Kingdom

Imagine a world where everyone making decisions on how best to respond to climate change had easy access to the information they need to make those choices. What would it look like and what would be needed to bring it about?

This may sound a naive question. Getting relevant climate information is not like clicking your smart phone app and looking up a train time. There is rarely a right or wrong answer in the same way. And access to information is not everything. Just by having it at your fingertips doesn’t mean it will be understood, that it will be acted upon, or that change will happen as a result.

Kenyan central highlands (Credit: Getty Images)

But we do know that information access going to be crucial to anyone making choices that will affect, or be effected by, climate change. From farmers choosing which crop varieties to plant, to mayors of low-lying coastal towns deciding where to build, access to good information is clearly vital if sound decisions are to be made.

Despite big efforts in the past decade or two, we are still a long way from where we need to be. Ironically, we’ve moved from one bad place to another – from a situation where there was a dearth of climate information to one where there is now far more than most can handle. Many are drowning in the flood.

Huge numbers of case studies, research papers and guidance notes are being published every day, and new climate-related websites being launched every week (dubbed ‘portal proliferation syndrome’). Yes, there are important gaps still to fill. But the more immediate challenge is to find what’s relevant from amongst the mass of information already out there.

This is where knowledge brokers fit in. They sit between the producers of climate information and the intended users. They play a variety of value added intermediary roles: signposting what’s out there, synthesising it intelligently, translating complex concepts into more understandable language, offering a quality control function so users know what to trust, and connecting up various communities of actors so they can share ideas.

So what would information access look like in a more ideal world? This is a question that the Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) Group has been grappling with since it came together in 2011, most recently at a workshop hosted by the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton in early October.

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Geoff Barnard is CDKN’s Senior Strategic Advisor for Knowledge Management.

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Sigmund Kluckner

Head of Information Systems and Digital Innovation