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Obama Administration asks innovators to leverage government climate change data

Rising sea levels are expected to swamp Florida
Rising sea levels are expected to swamp Florida

Referring to the Climate Action Plan launched last June by the Obama Administration, on Wednesday the Administration unveiled the Climate Data Initiative. The idea is 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 project, available on the Internet at, is meant to ensure people "have access to the information and tools they need to protect themselves from harm today and potential damage in the future." The initiative will also connect government and business leaders "with data-driven tools to help them better understand, manage, and prepare for the real-world impacts associated with climate change."

Private sector "innovators" are called upon to "leverage open government data resources and other datasets to build tools that will make America’s communities more resilient to climate change and to forge cross-sector partnerships to make those tools as useful as possible."

Specific aspects of the Climate Data Initiative include (see the fact sheet for more information):

  • The website which will initially focus on coastal flooding and sea level rise. Over time more datasets will be available to "provide information on other climate-relevant threats, such as to human health, energy infrastructure, and our food supply."
  • The NASA and NOAA Innovation Challenge on Coastal Vulnerability and Preparedness will "encourage entrepreneurs, technologists, and developers to create and deploy data-driven visualizations and simulations that help people understand their exposure to coastal-inundation hazards and other vulnerabilities."
  • A new map showing critical infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports, etc) that are at risk of coastal flooding will demonstrate some of the huge costs to come as climate change causes the sea level to rise.
  • The NOAA has issued a request for information for ideas on making "NOAA's vast data holdings available in a rapid, scalable manner to the public." Currently NOAA releases a tiny fraction of the climate data it collects.
  • Add support for climate data and tools to President Obama's FY2015 budget proposal.
  • Expanding outreach and stakeholder workshops "to identify needs for data and data-driven tools, spur innovative collaborations and partnerships, and get feedback on how to best make data, information tools, and other resources on climate change available and useful to people, businesses, and communities."

A long list of private-sector companies are already on board with the Climate Data Initiative, each of whom offer pieces to the puzzle of digesting large quantities of data. These include GIS vendor ESRI, Google, Intel, Microsoft Research, and others.

The Obama Administration is drawing criticism over fracking and LNG exports, with issuing an open letter to President Obama today calling on the Administration to stop plans for LNG export terminals. The group says increasing LNG exports would open the door to huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions.

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