Online interest in global warming hots up

NEW YORK Thu Feb 22, 2007 1:27pm EST

NEW YORK Feb 22 (Reuters Life!) - Internet interest in global warming hit an all-time high in mid February and the volume of searches rose 173 percent compared to last year.

The online competitive intelligence service Hitwise attributed the increase to studies about the impact of climate change and a recent United Nations' report on global warming.

"Search term data can provide invaluable insight into societal concerns," Bill Tancer, the general manager of Hitwise, said in a statement.

Wikipedia.org edged past The Environmental Protection Agency with 14.5 percent of online searches for "global warming" in the four weeks ending February 17.

ClimateHotMap.org and ClimateCrisis.net, the Web site of the Al Gore movie "An Inconvenient Truth" came in third and fourth.

"When you examine the actual search terms and the end destination of those search missions, you can also discover intent behind those searches," said Tancer, adding that people are eager to learn more about global warming.

Scientists predict that average global temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century because of burning fossil fuels, putting millions at risk from rising sea levels, floods, famines and violent weather.

The U.N. report said it was very likely that human activities explained most of the warming in the past 50 years.

Searchers for "global warming" accounted for 0.01 percent of U.S. online searchers in the four weeks ending February 17, an increase of 213 percent compared to the same period the previous years, according to Hitwise.