Photo by Mark Chapman photo via Flickr CC
According to a study led by the Rovira i Virgili University the scientific community to access and analyze only 20% of the recorded climate information the world has on hand. The rest... well it's never made it into digital format.In a world that is reliant on information being accessible via computer, having 80% of the historical climate data ever recorded exist offline is a serious problem to understanding and predicting the path and impact of future climate change.
In a press release, Manola Brunet, lead author of the study and a researcher at the URV's Centre for Climate Change, states that in Europe, some records go back as far as the 17th century, but only a small fraction is available to researchers.
"Failure to decipher the messages in the climate records of the past will result in socioeconomic problems, because we will be unable to deal with the current and future impacts of climate change and a hotter world", says Brunet.
This couldn't be a better example of why open source information is so important. Access to information is the key ingredient for innovation and revolutionary understanding. Take for example Google Earth -- by making satellite images available to everyone, researchers have discovered new ecosystems, coral reefs, evidence of illegal deforestation and more that has helped in our global understanding and protection of the planet. Imagine what would be possible -- or at least learned -- if scientists had full access to the world's historical climate information.
In the press release, Burnet states that part of the problem is that there are a wide range of forms in which the information is held, which makes converting paper-based information into digital format all the more cumbersome. On top of that, climate science services have gotten less and less funding for digitizing records.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has recommended that all countries make their historical climate data available to the scientific community and the general public, however, only a handful of countries, including Spain, the US, Canada, Holland and Norway allow some access to climate data. Brunet goes farther and recommends that governments adopt a resolution within the United Nations that would open up historical climate data for scientific researchers.
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