You have to hand it to Google. They are just all over business development. They have found something that everyone needs, perfected it quickly and delivered it so effectively that nobody else can hope to compete.
Then whilst they continue to improve the core offering they find a great way to make money without most of their customers even realizing it.
Not resting on this success they invest in both the core offering and start to add bells and whistles. At some point along the way they get big enough and powerful enough from unprecedented popularity to start changing and then setting the rules [it used to be that a Panda was just an endangered species].
One of the many bells is Google Trends, a neat tool that spits out data on search behavior for a key word from 2004 to present.
Here is a graphic of what Google trends says about the keyword ‘climate change’
The numbers here are all proportional to the peak of search activity over the period — in this case the peak searching occurred in December 2009. So low numbers represent less interest in the term relative to the peak and trends in the data show if the term is growing or waning in popularity. It is also possible to pick seasonality or specific events that trigger a spike or trend in search activity.
What can we say about climate change?
On the graphic I have added a few select events, particularly the various UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) that have been an end of year staple for a few years now
We didn’t really bother too much about it until An Inconvenient Truth tweaked our curiosity in 2006. Then we got really excited around the time of the COP in Copenhagen when then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was calling climate change ‘the greatest moral challenge of our age’.
And what has happened since those heady days? Well, we have had three more COPs in Cancun, Durban and Doha with progressively more pathetic efforts at tackling the greatest moral challenge, accompanied by a downward trend towards pre-Al Gore levels of interest in the topic.
In a few more years we will have forgotten about it altogether.
Trends also suggests that regional interest in the topic now comes exclusively from the developing world with 8 of the top 10 countries by search volume from Africa. Only these are the places with the least resources to do anything about it.
Stats can also be a hoot. You’ll notice that after each COP there is a trough in search volume as everyone in the northern hemisphere tucks into their Christmas turkey and a regular annual dip in traffic in the northern hemisphere summer when its warmest!
No doubt that many equally critical challenges await and will trend upwards to their moment in the spotlight only to fall away again. Such is that nature of our attention span. It would just be nice if things went away because they were fixed.
On the upside, thanks Google for what will be endless hours of statistical fun.