Worry as Measured by Google


I came across some fascinating findings on Grist the other day, that spoke about a study that examined correlation between Google searches for climate change and unemployment rates. Basically, the higher the unemployment rate is, the less people Google ‘global warming’. Instead, when unemployment rates are high, people Google ’employment’. Here is some of the article’s abstract:

“Building on recent research that finds internet search terms to be useful predictors of health epidemics and economic activity, we find that an increase in a state’s unemployment rate decreases Google searches for “global warming” and increases searches for “unemployment,” and that the effect differs according to a state’s political ideology. From national surveys, we find that an increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a decrease in the probability that residents think global warming is happening and reduced support for the U.S to target policies intended to mitigate global warming. Finally, in California, we find that an increase in a county’s unemployment rate is associated with a significant decrease in county residents choosing the environment as the most important policy issue.”

According to this research, we need things to worry about. When faced with multiple sources of worry, including unemployment, then global warming ceases to be a main concern to personal risk, and financial stress dominates. It will be very interesting to know how many people have lost their job because of climate change. Or how many people Google climate change employment.

Now I think the importance lies in how global warming remains a worry (as understood by a Google search) for people constantly, rather than just when they need to worry about something.

And to think that all of this came from observing people’s Googling…

Katherine Hui
Katherine Hui is currently the Social site editor at Green Thing, a web-based public service in London that inspires people to lead greener lives through creative content.

Before this, she worked as the Development Manager at Social Innovation Camp, an organization that encourages people to use web and mobile-based technology to mobilise social change. She oversaw 300 ideas submission and helped build 20 prototypes – five of which have gone on to get further funding or investment.

Katherine’s came over to the UK form Canada in 2007 for an MSc program at the London School of Economics. Before arriving in London, she managed a small environmental start-up in Vancouver called the Canadian Climate Change Alliance.

Katherine is football mad. She is a loyal supporter of Arsenal FC, plays for Islington Borough Ladies FC and coaches for Gunners in Islington in her spare time. Her second favourite hobby is kite surfing and she can sometimes be found chasing the wind.
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