Visualizing global warming

December 10, 2008

A Geneva based organization called New Economic Orientation for the 21st Century (NOE21) has created a quite compelling visualization of global warming. I like it both because of the Sims like design approach but also because it doesn't stop at visualizing the high level problem. It allows you to dig into the details and find out more about potential solutions and gives clear advantages and disadvantages of various technologies and applications. I believe it is these kinds of tools that will spark the creativity of technologists and designers to come up with better solutions. It seems like a really good step on the way to the massive increase in innovation we need.

I am interested to see whether anyone has come across any other useful visualizations or other tools that might act as design inspiration for tackling global warming or other major social issues.

What characteristics does a tool need to have to inspire new ideas around a complex large scale issue?

This was a topic we touched on at the recent World Economic Summit in Dubai. The role of design to visualize problems and challenges so that they can be acted upon - storytelling as an input rather than an output.

I believe we have tended to disassociate storytelling from design and I think it would be useful to make the connection more explicit. That is what NOE21 is doing by connecting issues to solutions. I believe we can help many more people make the leap from taking a passive approach to a seemingly intractable problem to active participation in creating solutions (or at least participating in the solutions that are already available such as energy conservation) if we use stories to make the connection.