Open with Purpose — Ethical Issues and Stewardship Mechanisms for Open Climate Data

As the impacts of the ongoing climate emergency intensify, the urgency of addressing the climate crisis has grown. Digital technologies can support these efforts. However, they can also be part of the problem.

A working paper by the World Resources Institute concluded that Open Data could bring many benefits to climate policymaking and action, including improved data quality and coordination, better-informed decision-making, new partnerships, and democratization of modeling approaches. Promoting greater accessibility to climate-related data through Open Data could also improve the monitoring of policies and programs. Our new report, “Open with Purpose – Ethical Issues and Stewardship Mechanisms for Open Climate Data,” recognizes these potential benefits but also takes a close look at the challenges associated with data-driven responses to the climate crisis.

To this end, the report reviews academic and “grey” literature on Open Data to identify key ethical issues and potential harm that collecting and processing such data in the context of climate action might raise.

The review draws from broader critiques of data infrastructures to highlight the particular challenges of creating open data collections and platforms. It explores mechanisms and practices that open-data projects may put in place in order to mitigate some of these risks.

Read the paper


This study was commissioned by Open Future to explore how the Paradox of Open manifests itself in the context of open-climate data and how climate data can be governed as Digital Commons. The report was written by Aditya Singh, a lawyer, researcher, and consultant focusing on data protection and AI ethics.


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