Report: Harvard ‘Tweeting Tree’ Project on Climate Change Funded by Taxpayer Dollars

Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A Harvard project involving efforts to “equip a tree with a voice” about climate change was funded with taxpayer dollars from the National Science Foundation.

According to a report by Campus Reform, a program at Harvard University that involves a tree that tweets about climate change was funded by taxpayer dollars. Harvard, which boasts an endowment of almost $40 billion, received funding from the publicly-funded National Science Foundation for the project.

“We’ve done the work as a team to equip the tree with a voice, which we decided made the most sense in the first person, and even with a personality, in order to make it relatable to a larger audience,” the project’s leader said in a comment to a Harvard publication. “But most importantly, our Witness Tree is an objectively data-driven account, which I expect will amplify messages of climate change. But we don’t decide what gets posted, the tree does.”

The account often tweets the temperature at the tree’s location and compares it to historic temperatures.  “Yesterday, it was very hot. With a daily average of 27 ℃ (80.5 ℉), it was the 24th hottest day I can remember,” the account tweeted in July.

The researchers behind the project claim that their “tweeting tree” is amongst the most advanced of its kind in the entire world. While other similar “tweeting trees” may note the current temperature, the Harvard tree compares current temperatures with historic weather records.

“This is one of the things that sets it apart from existing twittering trees in Europe,” one of the researchers said, “as our tree’s social media messages can also draw on the decades of data in Harvard Forest’s incredible data archive. Meaning, a sensor on a tree anywhere in the world could tell you that a summer temperature is hot, but our tree has the ability to report that it’s the hottest temperature it has seen in 50 years. Our tree is not just witnessing in real time; it’s got a memory.”

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