How can people doing #CivicTech become directly involved in action against climate disruption?


Twitter sometimes just asks the right questions, and points you to the others you need to find. This tweet popped up in our stream the other day:

The way the medium works, Irina’s question generated a great list of great actors and initiatives. Which, if you’re also interested, might be worth following up. (Look up the #civictech hashtag in any case, for a thriving and vibrant community). We lay them out below:

Who is Jack Kelly (left)? His CV reveals him to be a longstanding environmental activist and neuroscientist. After a spell at Google’s Deep Mind project, Jack has realised that cooperating organisations, using open source (rather than proprietary) knowledge, are the best ways that tech can help mitigate the climate crisis.

His particular pet project is Open Climate Fix (explanatory blog here, and how to get involved). It’s a not-for-profit product development lab. His pitch:

We will be obsessively focused on building things which reduce CO2e emissions by at least one million tonnes per year; and hopefully billions of tonnes per year. The aim is to catalyse systemic change and help the entire community (including DeepMind!) to have as much climate impact as possible.

We’ll be very collaborative; everything will be open source; and we’ll encourage others to commercialise our work and/or out-perform any systems we build. We’ll aim for maximum CO2ereduction per dollar. The non-profit will combine ideas from open-science and startup culture, and will focus on interventions which are practical and scalable.

This idea is probably wildly naive. But I want to test it out.

Open Climate Fix’s first project is a very smart system that can predict when cloud-cover will rob solar panels of their sunlight. It’s called “nowcasting”, has been done for rainfall (and weather reporting) for many years, and Jack wants to apply it to solar power. If the predictions can be made more precise, carbon-emitters like gas turbines (which fill in for gaps in solar power provision) can be operated much more efficiently, thus drastically reducing their carbon impact. Cool, no? Get involved!

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There was another tweeted answer to Irina, alerting us to the existence of ClimateAction.Tech (Twitter account, and Slack group). The YouTube audio embed below is a presentation from its founder, but they wrote a clear Medium post in Sept 2018 explaining themselves:

The reality of our present moment is that humankind is locking in a path to catastrophic global warming. It is imperative that businesses and organizations understand their role at this critical time, and contribute positively toward solutions on climate change.

Small, medium and large companies in the tech industry are at different stages of this journey. Some are leading the pack, but are aware they need to do more. Others have made clear headway, and are trying to work out new approaches. Many more are struggling with where to start.

In the majority of these businesses, numerous employees are highly motivated to help their employers push forward and do more, whether it is directly related to their role or not. This is significant — employees working in tech often have a much greater than average capability to guide and influence their employers. There is a powerful incentive for workers and companies to join forces and make waves on issues of sustainability.

That’s why an organic, employee-led group of technology professionals from across the industry have come together to advocate for change. We aim to support these motivated employees, to incubate these business efforts wherever possible and to offer technical support to the climate movement.

Much more here. It’s exciting to see these free associations arising from the tech sector - maintains our faith that we are in a new age of bottom-up organisational invention, in response to the perception of major climatic and technological crisis. If there are any more initiatives like these, please post below in comments.