Assignment Description

Improving the Climate Change Information Environment

Part of the Digital Polarization Initiative (DigiPo)

(adapted from

Bad information about climate change is everywhere, and many common searches on the web return misinformation. We can think of this situation in terms of the “information environment” about climate change. Bad or poor quality information is “information pollution” that degrades the information environment we all share. We don’t have to accept this situation as inevitable. We can, as students and scholars, make the information environment better.

For the Improving Our Climate Change Information Environment assignment you will work in a group of 3 or 4 to identify a question about climate change for which the current top Google results are either flawed or incomplete. Our class climate change information site ( was started in Fall 2019 by the students in my section of Tackling a Wicked Problem. They chose questions from the list on that site to find the answer to. You should be sure to read some of their articles so you can understand the kind of work I’m expecting you to do. The site contains a list of questions that you might choose from. Or you can come up with your own question to answer. The choice of question that you are going to answer is a really important one because you will be working on this assignment for the next 4-5 weeks (at least). You should choose something that you are actually interested in investigating.

How do you choose a question? This is going to require you to do some research. I have designed a library exercise that is due the same day as your choice of question is due. This exercise should help you start to identify possible questions to answer. So you should do the library exercise as early in the week as possible. You will need to work with your group to come to a decision together about the claim that you investigate.

You will write up the question you choose and answer it (see the Format section below). If you wish, you can choose to submit your questions and answers for permanent inclusion on our class climate change information site. This will result in your answer coming up in Google responses to the question you chose (permanent submission to the site is optional, not mandatory, and acceptance may be dependent on quality).

Your work will be assessed on the following criteria. These criteria are all derived from the goal of the assignment: to produce useful, accurate information that people can understand and feel they can trust.

  • Choice of question: Did you choose a question about which there is currently misinformation or a lack of information? Your completed assignment should show that the question is either matter of some disagreement or an issue on which there is no significant disagreement, but about which there is significant misinformation on the web.
  • Quality of explanation: In answering the question, do you make a logical argument? Do you write with clarity?
  • Quality of Sourcing: Do you source your support for the answer through the appropriate use of hyperlinks? Are your sources reliable, and do they tap into relevant expertise in the field? For statistical questions do you note both the source of the statistics and any relevant information about how they were collected and by whom?
  • Breadth of sourcing: Do you use a variety of sources, old and new, to show the points of scholarly consensus and disagreement? For statistical questions, do you provide multiple sources if required and available?
  • Style: Does your answer project authority through use of proper grammar, clear writing, and freedom from spelling errors? Where possible, do you make use of properly cited images, videos, and other media? Do you maintain a neutral, unemotional tone throughout?

Your annotated bibliography will be marked complete when the following criteria are met:

  • There are at least 10 sources.
  • All of the sources have citations to other work).
  • None of the sources is a blog post from someone without expertise related to climate change.
  • At least 5 of the sources are from the last 2 years.
  • At least 2 of the sources from peer reviewed journals.
  • At least 1 of the sources is a book.
  • For each source, you have written at least 2 paragraphs:
    • One paragraph explains what the source says.
    • One paragraph explains how you will use the source in your article. For example, is this a source that makes a false claim related to your question and so you will be using it to show that your question is a matter of disagreement? Or is this a web-based source that provides misinformation related to your questions? Or is this a source that you will summarize in order to provide evidence for the answer to your question? Or is this a source that gives some background information related to your question? There are other ways that you might be using a particular source so you must have a paragraph explaining that.

Examples of previous exemplary work on questions from other topics: