2011-06-23 00:05:43Google Visualizes Climate Change -- Fast Company
John Hartz
John Hartz


Google Visualizes Climate Change

By Gregory Ferenstein, Fast Company, Jun 17, 2011

Cal-Adapt, the company's new handy climate-change-impact visualizer, makes it easy to understand the specific effects of climate change on where you live (though you may have to move--your neighborhood might be underwater soon).

For the average person, data about climate change can be hard to come by. You've been assured the planet is changing, but how much? And how will it affect you? Now, instead of taking things on faith, California residents can access Cal-Adapt, a site that crunches environmental data and allows you to see what the temperature increase will be in your town (or even neighborhood) through 2050. You might discover that your house is going to be underwater soon.

Google has teamed up with UC Berkeley on the new climate change visualizer and database, bringing awareness to the issue and giving slick graphical fodder to environmental evangelists. Cal-Adapt overlays environmental data, such as temperatures and fire hazard levels, over a Google Map, which can be segmented by region and graphed over time. Back in 2009, then CEO Eric Schmidt called the prototype one of Google's "efforts to get people to understand what’s happening around us."

Cal-Adapt isn't pulling punches on the climate controversy. In addition to looking at what they argue is the very real impact of human causes of climate change, each visual module is complemented with more immediately impactful data for Californians, such as the increased threat of wildfires.

In addition to the visualizer, raw data is conveniently packaged in spreadsheet form and GIS, a professional mapping utility used by economists and urban planners to spot regional trends.

Cal-Adapt is just the latest Google venture in a barrage of pro-sustainability projects, from a massive $168M investment in solar farms to a smartgrid, and even an Al Gore-narrated Google Earth video. Check out the new tool here.