Climate Lab Harnesses the Power of Open Source to Combat Climate Change

Open Source again proves a versatile model as it helps in the collaboration and distribution of facts in the climate change debate

Before everyone says that Al Gore invented climate change and global warming, a nod of thanks should go out to the open source movement for helping to bring the facts regarding our climate to the masses.

Climate Lab, which has its roots in the problems the World Bank was having organizing the mounds of data it was collecting on climate change, is not only using open source tools to organize, collaborate and syndicate data, but the very data itself is open source.

I had a chance to sit down with Adam Tapley, Managing Director and Tom Adkins, founder, board member and technology director of Climate Lab. Climate Lab is a non-profit organization set up to organize, display and disseminate the "tsunami of data" that the climate change scientists are generating.

For those wondering, the Climate Lab folks belief is that climate change is a man made issue and is a huge problem. With that as a basic premise, their mission is to set up a climate change network where all of the data and information that is being produced can be brought out to people. Tapley and Adkins think that the data will show the truth and cut through a lot of the smoke and mirrors that is being thrown up around the climate issue.

In looking around at how best to tackle the tsunami of data problem, the Climate Lab folks looked at various Wiki solutions. Adkins however fell in love with MindTouch, the open source collaboration platform. The Climate Lab folks use the community or free version of MindTouch, they have made many additions to the code to customize it for their mission. Adkins is very happy with the flexibility and power it brings to the mission. One of the most important aspects is the ability of MindTouch to not only "import" the data it comes in contact with, but to syndicate that data out to the Climate Lab network. Open source or not, they do not think there is a better solution for them.

Technology and tools are not the only way Climate Lab is using open source. They have open sourced their data. By this they mean that any data, articles or content up on the Climate Lab site can be republished and syndicated to other sources. In this way the Climate Labs network is empowered to make sure the data is getting out to those who need it. 

Examples of syndicating the data is the use of Climate Lab data by American University, the Climate Institute and the Latin American and Caribbean Council on Renewable Energy (LAB-CORE). Utilizing APIs in MindTouch, these organizations can pull information automatically from Climate Lab and still retain their own branding, look and feel. By having the "source code" to the information, they can use it as they wish.

This open source approach to the information and data the Climate Lab people believe will be the ultimate value that they bring to the climate change question.

So in this case not only is open source technology empowering the climate change debate, the information in debate itself is also open source. 

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