What do you do if you have a question? You probably ‘Google it’.

Now a team of researchers at The University of Queensland is using the big data produced from Google search histories to gauge how ready countries are for the impacts of climate change.

PhD candidate Carla Archibald, from the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, said the researchers used the information to assess general awareness of climate change.

“There are more than 3.6 billion searches on Google every day,” she said.

“Of course, people are Googling ‘climate change’, so we looked at how often the topic is searched to determine the level of climate change awareness.” 

Countries were then divided into categories based on awareness of climate change and whether they were at low or high risk of climate change impacts.

Each country’s wealth was also taken into account, as this could determine how well they could adapt.

Countries such as Fiji and Canada, recorded a high number of searches for “climate change” related topics, so could be considered as having a high awareness of climate change.

The researchers said this could be a good way of assessing how ready communities were to adapt to climate change, especially at a large global scale.

“Information about how aware communities are is needed to decide what programs may be more applicable in different countries, such as resilience programs or climate education programs,” Ms Archibald said.

“For example, two countries in the ‘high awareness, high risk’ category are Australia and the Solomon Islands, which differ greatly in their financial resource availability.

“The Solomon Islands may be a great candidate for receiving external climate change adaptation funding, whereas Australia would be better off directing internal funds towards adaptation.”

The researchers hope their findings can help inform how climate adaptation funding and resources can be delivered to areas that need it the most.

The paper is published in Climatic Change.

Media: Carla Archibald, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +61 434 821 974; CEED Communications, Casey Fung, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +61 433 638 643.

Archibald, C.L., Butt, N. 2018. Using Google search data to inform global climate change adaptation policy. Climatic Change