Al Gore stars in promo video for new emissions scenario features developed by Google Earth to coincide with Copenhagen climate conference
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words should we afford Google Earth? Hours can be lost skydiving your way towards your favourite locations. Seeing somewhere you know so well from above provides valuable extra servings of knowledge and perspective.
It's pleasing, therefore, to see Google announcing on its official blog that it has developed some nifty new features to coincide with the Copenhagen climate conference, now only a matter of weeks away.
In collaboration with the Danish government and others, we are launching a series of Google Earth layers and tours to allow you to explore the potential impacts of climate change on our planet and the solutions for managing it. Working with data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we show on Google Earth the range of expected temperature and precipitation changes under different global emissions scenarios that could occur throughout the century.
To help introduce us all to these features, Google has asked Al Gore – who acts as a "senior advisor" to the company – to provide the commentary on an accompanying video.
The search engine has also teamed up with CNN to establish a dedicated YouTube channel. Entitled "Raise Your Voice", it features a series of videos by world leaders and well-known faces (Emma Thompson and the crown prince of Denmark, to date) to help explain why the conference is so important. Submissions from the public are welcome, and the best will be aired during the conference in the meeting rooms and on CNN.
I've had a quick play around with the new Google Earth features – they allow you to "view" any location on earth up till the year 2100, according to both the IPCC's high and low emissions scenarios. You may be asked to install a plugin, as I was. Google promises more features in coming weeks.
By the looks of Al Gore's video, we can expect additional versions allowing us to see predicted sea-level rises, water depletion and polar ice-sheet melting. Extra tours are promised that will help us "learn about the range of available solutions". According to Gore, "you will visualise a new world of renewable energy, and see what individuals and communities around the world are doing to both reduce their carbon footprint and adapt to their changing climates".
If Google can keep on adding tools and features, this could develop into something truly useful – particularly for schools.
And it would be nice, too, if the crowd-sourcing potential of Google Maps could somehow be exploited by users. What additional layers of information would you like to see? Predicted impacts on habitats? Likely spread of malaria endemic areas? Data showing variations in public attitudes to the threat of climate change? Regional increases (and decreases) in human population? The location of existing and planned nuclear power stations? Over to you.