Yesterday I had the privilege to take part in the White House Climate Data Initiative Launch event — which culminates months of collaboration with the White House, NASA, GSA, and other federal agencies to create the new climate.data.gov website. NASA is leading the curation of federal data sets and tools that will reside on the site for use by citizens, communities, municipalities, organizations, industry, and scientists and technologists to gather insights and make informed decisions about climate resilience. We’ve only just begun the collection of datasets and tools, but this site offers a data watering hole for users to engage and act. The site also features four climate-related International Space Apps Challenges that global solvers can gather together to address April 12-13 at nearly 100 locations around the globe.
Bina Venkataraman and Brian Forde of the White House organized the Climate Data Initiative events. I participated in one of the two workshops preceding the press event. Leaders from citizen organizations, city government, federal and state agencies, and data innovators shared cutting edge tools, and discussed climate-related challenges facing cities, business, and the public. Coastal hazards from sea-level rise is a rallying point to gather data-driven insights and tools to equip decision-makers — who come in many shapes and sizes, from home owners to business owners to city/state/federal leaders.
We heard from Denice Ross, Director of Enterprise Information at the City of New Orleans who discussed the challenge of brittle data supply chains and the pathological complexity of decision-making at the local level. Innovation is a far reach, but optimization is the more reasonable goal for local government. She called for mobile damage assessment tools that can operate in disconnect mode — not only for disaster environments, but for poverty-stricken areas where cell or wifi connections aren’t an option. Sara Wu, Climate Planning and Policy Manager in the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability for the City of Philadelphia, discussed their need for insights into extreme heat/precipitation to plan for at-risk communities, along with life cycle costs for real estate planning. Their city is working to create a one-stop climate data shop, but implementation of innovative data assessment tools may be more aspirational that realistic. Katherine Greig, Senior Policy Advisor for New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, discussed their need for hyper-local data — such as the depth of basements and height of ground level floors. They are looking for resilience in design standards and consistent planning models. Garrett Fitzgerald, Strategic Partnerships Advisor for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network in DC discussed the lack of data use in decision-making, and the need for concrete examples of creative use cases.
The workshop featured existing tools and data, including the new Google Earth Engine tool; ESRI, geo-spatial data and map-based resilience tools; InaSAFE, a plug-in open street map tool to simulate disaster effects, Microsoft’s FetchClimate tool, NOAA’s earth data, and more.
Thanks Second Muse for designing the workshop. You guys are awesome, as always!! Now the real work begins. We need to figure out how to set free all available data and tools (and create new ones) to equip our decision-makers to make decisions for the future — in the face of certain uncertainty.
Here’s what we have at stake: our very own blue marble. The only human-friendly planet we’ve found…so far.