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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Myth-busting climate change website wins global award – a success for multi-disciplinary science at the University of Southampton

Published: 29 June 2012

Myths circulating online about climate change cause misplaced apathy or alarm. A website built to be the antidote has won a major global award for a team from the University of Southampton.

Globe-Town.org won third prize in the first international ‘Apps for Climate’ competition (#Apps4Climate) held by the World Bank, presented at a ceremony in Washington DC. By opening up the facts of climate change in different countries, Globe-Town shows how no one is isolated from the consequences in an interdependent world. The site also reveals how responding to climate change presents a world of opportunities to inspire individuals and entrepreneurs.

The application was conceived by web and sustainability PhD student, Jack Townsend ( @JackTownsend_ ) and developed with a team including four other PhD students from the Web Science Doctoral Training Centre in a multidisciplinary collaboration between Electronics & Computer Science (ECS) and Biological Sciences at The University of Southampton. Jack says: “The World Health Organisation has estimated that climate change is killing 150,000 people a year. In order to tackle this challenge, we all need to know how it affects us personally and what we can do about it. Globe-Town does this by connecting the global with the local, so we can explore the risks, responsibilities and opportunities of climate change in an increasingly interconnected world.”

Globe-Town is an easy-to-use web application where people can learn about each country’s environment, society & economy, so they can understand the challenges and opportunities that it faces in a changing world. Moreover, they can explore the connections between countries through relationships such as trade, migration or air travel. Stories can then emerge of how climate risks can be transmitted between distant countries, for instance the impact of the 2011 Thai floods on the Japanese economy. Similarly, the user can learn about shared responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions through the things we import, or opportunities to act to mitigate and to adapt, such as investing in renewable energy projects abroad.

Jack continues: “The aim of Globe-Town is to open up our world of connections to exploration, whilst bringing home what the things we discover might mean to us personally. We hope to bring more transparency to the rich network of our connections, or, perhaps introduce people to their far-away next-door neighbours.”

Globe-Town originated with Jack’s research into the web and climate change. “I’m fascinated by the potential of web technologies and openness to tackle global challenges and advance sustainable development for all,” PhD supervisors Professor Gail Taylor and Dr Jason Noble state that “this is a great example of how bringing together academics from different disciplines can lead to creative thinking and solutions to some of the pressing problems in society today and Globe-Town is an example of how much can be achieved with the approach at Southampton”.

The site builds heavily on the increasing amount of freely available ‘open data’ online, with much of it originating from the World Bank’s open data portal.

Jack concludes, “We are exploring a wide range of possibilities for the future of Globe-Town, such as enabling people to crowd-funding projects, participate in e-activism, or to contribute content so they can take action about what they discover. With ideas like these - along with the existing discussion feature - Globe-Town can go beyond exploring our existing links to forging new ones around the world. After all, we all live in the same Globe-Town.”

Globe-Town.org was conceived by web and sustainability student, Jack
Jack Townsend

I’m fascinated by the potential of web technologies and openness to tackle global challenges and advance sustainable development for all.

Jack Townsend - PhD student
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