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A Humata touch on climate communications
The second part of my series on using AI to analyze an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report
In my first post, I used Humata, a generative AI system, to analyze the IPCC’s most recent Summary for Policymakers. I found that it could help a lay reader like me navigate the report better than a PDF reader and its clunky search function. It also produced an eyebrow-raising conclusion about the report that I would have stretched to make myself. Finally, it helped me get a handle on the overall “mood” of the report, if in a somewhat roundabout fashion.
This leads to my final ask of the bot, which I’ll cover in this post: how it can potentially improve a report like this—and where it falls short.
The good, the bad and the uncanny
TLDR: Humata’s recommendations are hit-and-miss. A peon like me would never deign to pick holes in the IPCC’s work; thankfully, Humata’s AI has no such humility. It was especially illuminating to see the system project itself into whatever virtual reader it could cull from the corpus of text that trained it. Specifically, I asked for its take on the report from the vantage of two personas:
Policymakers. Humata’s recommendations about the report on behalf of policymakers are quite interesting. I don’t have a great deal of experience with generative AI models, and what I’ve read from others ranges from unsettling to kitschy. But this model’s articulation of the policymaker mindset is uncanny. I’ve included the entire Q&A below; it’s worth reading in its entirety. This was the moment, more than any other, that convinced me that these systems can genuinely improve how experts communicate about climate change.
Is there any way this report could be improved to make it more compelling to a policymaker audience?
To make the report more compelling to a policymaker audience, a few improvements could be considered:
Provide a clear and concise executive summary: Policymakers often have limited time and need to quickly grasp the key findings and recommendations. A concise executive summary at the beginning of the report, highlighting the most important information, would help policymakers understand the urgency and significance of the issue.
Include more specific and actionable policy recommendations: Policymakers need practical guidance on how to address climate change. The report could provide more specific and actionable policy recommendations, including examples of successful policies and initiatives from different regions. This would help policymakers understand the range of options available and their potential impact.
Highlight the economic benefits of climate action: Policymakers are often concerned about the economic implications of climate policies. The report could emphasize the economic benefits of climate action, such as job creation, innovation, and cost savings in the long run. This would help policymakers see climate action as an opportunity for sustainable economic growth rather than just a burden.
Incorporate case studies and success stories: Policymakers are often influenced by real-world examples. Including case studies and success stories of countries or regions that have successfully implemented climate policies and achieved positive outcomes would provide policymakers with concrete evidence of the feasibility and effectiveness of climate action.
Enhance the communication of uncertainties: Policymakers need to understand the uncertainties associated with climate science and projections. The report could improve the communication of uncertainties by clearly explaining the limitations of models and scenarios, and providing a balanced assessment of the confidence levels associated with different findings. This would help policymakers make informed decisions while considering the range of possible outcomes.
By incorporating these improvements, the report can become more compelling and actionable for policymakers, facilitating their understanding of the urgency and importance of addressing climate change.
The system answered my follow-up question with similarly nuanced insight:
Based on this findings in report, what specific and actionable policy recommendations would you recommend be included to make the report more compelling to a policymaker audience?
Based on the findings in the report, the following specific and actionable policy recommendations could be included to make the report more compelling to a policymaker audience:
Increase adaptation and mitigation finance: Policymakers should prioritize increasing both adaptation and mitigation finance to address rising risks and accelerate investments in emissions reductions. This includes increasing access to finance for developing countries, vulnerable groups, regions, and sectors.
Strengthen policy implementation: Policymakers should address the “implementation gap” by strengthening policies to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement. This includes ensuring that policies result in lower global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and limiting global warming to well below 2°C or 1.5°C by the end of the century.
Enhance climate governance and institutional capacity: Policymakers should focus on building effective local, municipal, national, and subnational institutions that enable coordination, inform strategy setting, and build consensus for climate action. This includes inclusive decision processes, prioritizing equity and justice, and addressing context-specific inequities.
Promote equitable and just climate action: Policymakers should design regulatory and economic instruments that advance equity and address socio-economic disparities. This includes reducing emissions from high socio-economic status individuals, supporting low-emission technology adoption in developing countries, and ensuring climate resilient development is achieved through equitable and inclusive approaches.
Strengthen international cooperation: Policymakers should prioritize international cooperation to achieve ambitious climate change mitigation, adaptation, and climate resilient development. This includes supporting technology innovation, transfer, and capacity building, as well as stimulating low greenhouse gas emissions investments and reducing emissions through international agreements and initiatives.
Scale up regulatory and economic instruments: Policymakers should scale up and apply regulatory and economic instruments more widely to support deep emissions reductions. This includes carbon pricing, removing fossil fuel subsidies, and implementing comprehensive and balanced policy packages tailored to national circumstances.
By including these specific and actionable policy recommendations, the report can provide policymakers with clear guidance on the steps needed to address climate change effectively.
Needless to say, I agree with the first set of recommendations; things like executive summaries, specific and actionable recommendations, case studies and acknowledgment of uncertainties are key components of the content-101 toolkit. What impressed me was how Humata managed to view these elements from a policymaker’s perspective. I’m not quite qualified to comment on the second set of recommendations, although I’d love to hear if any policymakers are keen to take these up.
The general public. I also asked Humata to provide recommendations to make the report more accessible to this second type of reader. Here, I found the bot’s suggestions more banal:
Use clear and concise language
Utilize visual aids
Provide summaries and key takeaways
Organize information with headings and subheadings
Break up lengthy paragraphs
Provide context and background information
It supplemented these points with a few snippets of generic rationale, but nothing worth including here. I would have liked to see examples—where exactly could the report, say, utilize a visual aid to improve readability? It is already chock-full of graphics and data visualizations. This answer feels like a much more cut-and-paste response, lacking the specificity of the policymaker recommendations.
There are a million ways to improve any piece of writing, and Humata’s recommendations are hardly earth-shattering. But it is striking how discerning it was about what could spruce up the content (in the policymaker section at least). As generative AI systems proliferate and seep ever-deeper into our professional lives, it is tempting to take them for granted. But these automated assistants are poised to fundamentally transform how communication occurs. We all need to be ready for them.
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