President Obama's Climate Data Initiative is “a broad effort to leverage the Federal Government's extensive, freely-available climate-relevant data resources to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate-change preparedness,” the White House said in a statement announcing the plan.
A new website, climate.data.gov, will be the central host for the government's climate data and will provide information and maps to help citizens and experts learn more about climate change and make decisions to prepare.
The White House said the website would “initially focus on coastal flooding and sea level rise in its beta phase” and already contained more than 100 datasets, web services and tools to help communities.
“Over time, these data and resources will expand to provide information on other climate-relevant threats, such as to human health, energy infrastructure, and our food supply,” the White House said.
The site also features a new database with mapping information on the nation’s infrastructure and geography “including bridges, roads, railroad tunnels, canals and river gauges,” the statement said. “Providing wider access to these data to mission partners and the general public can advance preparedness for climate change impacts and other disasters.”
John Podesta, counselor to the president, and John P. Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said in a blog post on the White House website that it was “impossible” for state and local leaders to ignore the consequences of climate change.
‘While no single weather event can be attributed to climate change, we know that our changing climate is making many kinds of extreme events more frequent and more severe,” they wrote. “Rising seas threaten our coastlines. Dry regions are at higher risk of destructive wildfires. Heat waves impact health and agriculture. Heavier downpours can lead to damaging floods.”
They said that a number of tech companies were also aiding in the effort, with Esri, a software company partnering with 12 cities to create free maps and apps to help prepare for “climate change impacts.”
Google is also donating one petabyte of cloud storage for climate data, in addition to 50 million hours of high-performance computing. Microsoft is donating free cloud computing and Intel is sponsoring “hackathon” events, challenging software engineers to design new tools to help communities harness climate data.
“The company is challenging the global innovation community to build a high-resolution global terrain model to help communities build resilience to anticipated climate impacts in decades to come,” wrote Podesta and Holdren.