White House launches climate data project, calls on data innovators

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced the Climate Data Initiative, a program that will utilize climate change-related data to unleash new tools for city planners and local governments to prepare for and fight against climate change. The initiative will bring together open government data — from groups like USGS, DOD, NOAA and NASA — and pair it with data, technology and new programs from companies like Google, Intel and ESRI.

During a live-streamed announcement from the White House, Obama administration advisor John Podesta issued a call to action for tech innovators to use this open data trove and available technology to build new tools for local communities to use. Because data about the changing climate is so complex and involves so many planetary systems — from sea to atmosphere to arctic data — the Obama administration put together one site to house all that data and new resources at Data.gov/climate.

CartoDB's carbon calculator map

CartoDB’s carbon calculator map

The initiative already has a long list of support from startups and tech companies, which have developed hackathons, RFIs and grant programs to help innovators leverage these data sets. Google is donating cloud computing and storage resources to the initiative. Intel is organizing three hackathons around the data. Data visualization and mapping startup CartoDB is launching a grant program to support nonprofits in creating data-driven tools.

Better planning and visualization tools could be a crucial way for communities not only to adapt to climate change, but also to galvanize people around fighting climate change. Particularly data visualization could go a long way to showing the impact of climate change data on local communities. Last month I helped organize an event on this topic called Visualized Climate, for the annual data visualization conference Visualized, where NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, CartoDB founder Javier de la Torre and others spoke about these issues.