Heartland Institute launches a ‘closed’ climate change wiki


A climate change wiki is a good idea – but not if its climate sceptic organisers block alternative views

Screengrab of the ClimateWiki front page. Photograph: ClimateWiki.org

Screengrab of the ClimateWiki front page. Photograph: ClimateWiki.org

Wikis are one of the wonders of the web. They are a powerful expression of the collaborative, collective power of the online crowd. They can take many forms but, in essence, they act as an open, live database of knowledge, which anyone can access to update or edit.

Wikipedia is the best-known example, of course. It is a tremendous resource, but one which carries a well-known warning: don’t trust everything you read. While many thousands of saintly people give up their precious time to maintain wikis, there will always be a few who try to corrupt the system with false or bias information. Thankfully, over time, this is usually spotted and corrected.

Climate change – as with so many other controversial issues – has proved to be a troublesome subject when it comes to wikis. There are many people out there on either side of the debate who wish to manipulate and misinform. Wikipedia, for example, says that its page on climate change is “subject to Wikipedia general sanctions“, meaning that changes must be vetted in advance by editors who have already gained the trust of their peers.

So, when I saw that a new, standalone climate wiki had launched I was intrigued. How would it work? Could the information it hosted be trusted?

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One Response to Heartland Institute launches a ‘closed’ climate change wiki

  1. Alan Burke says:

    Concluding remarks from the Guardian.co.uk:

    … I wasn’t the only person to find Heartland’s response running somewhat counter to the true spirit of a genuine wiki. Adam Corner is a research associate in the “understanding risk” research group at Cardiff University, who specialises in the “communication of climate change” and how “people evaluate arguments and evidence”. He also contacted Heartland with a view to testing the openness of its wiki. And, like me, he has, to date, had a negative response. I’ll give him the last word on Heartland’s climatewiki:

    The climatewiki is so dangerous because it presents itself as providing ‘neutral’ information about climate change, when in fact it is a highly selective and ideologically filtered presentation of climate science and politics.
    The tactics of organisations like the Heartland Institute are well known: funding and disseminating information that aims to undermine attempts to regulate carbon emissions. They have been exposed and discredited on many occasions. But this is more subtle – it’s an attempt to make a grab for the very building blocks of knowledge that the media and political debates develop from. A high school student, in a rush to get their homework assignment done, is more likely to scan the climatewiki than academic journals.
    The fact that they won’t let people edit the wiki is revealing. They are doing precisely what they wrongly accuse climate scientists of doing: running a closed shop and preventing open debate.

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