For the next two weeks (November 28—December 9), world leaders are meeting in the city of Durban, South Africa, to discuss crucial climate change issues at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Much anticipation has surrounded this year’s COP because many are hoping that this summit will result in a new global climate agreement. The Kyoto Protocol is the only existing legally binding agreement of this sort, and it commits most developed countries to a set of emissions targets, but the first commitment period expires in 2012. COP17 presents an opportunity to set new targets and extend the Protocol, but it is uncertain whether or not the world’s leaders will take advantage of this opportunity. The world’s top emitters, the United States and China, are not currently a part of the Kyoto Protocol, and unless they agree to take part in the second commitment period, several other developed countries (including Japan, Canada and Russia) are unlikely to agree to extend the Protocol.
Anyway, long story short—COP17 is a pretty big deal, and appropriately, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding the event. CNN’s ECOSPHERE project is a real-time visualization of how online discussion is evolving on topics related to climate change and COP17. ECOSPHERE aggregates tweets tagged with #COP17 and groups them into specific topics or discussions. The visualization is an interactive 3-D globe, covered in virtual “topic plants” that grow larger or faster depending on the conversation surrounding that particular topic. Individual tweets will feed the growth of the appropriate topic plant, so feel free to join the discussion by submitting your own #COP17 tweets! Or, just interact with the rather cool visualization--you can zoom in on specific topic plants, or even individual tweets! EM