President Barack Obama has long been promising a website to guide everyone on climate change, and on March 19 he launched it as one of the initiatives he is taking to combat the issue in the face of Congressional inaction.
The initiative, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), is a new climate-focused section of Data.gov, the federal government’s open data platform, hosted by the General Services Administration, the White House said in a statement.
The goal is to “make federal data about our climate more open, accessible and useful to citizens, researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators,” the White House said. Today’s launch includes 100-plus web services, tools, data and other interactive features that can help communities prepare for and adapt to changes. The initial focus is on the most pressing matter, coastal flooding and sea level rise.
“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 package includes a number of tools designed to both crowd-source data and compile it to make it available to communities so they can customize solutions. Though many tribes have already created plans based on their own situations, more data is becoming available daily.
Google, Intel and Microsoft are among the companies in the private sector that have been called upon to facilitate this, the White house said. Microsoft and Google will donate cloud storage for dozens of research projects devoted to climate change, and Google will help with mapping as well. Intel will host three so-called hackathons, events in the Chesapeake Bay area, New Orleans and San Jose at which engineering and computer science students will use federal data to create apps and tools.
"We can help make sense out of vast amounts of data," says Rebecca Moore, engineering manager of Google Earth Engine & Earth Outreach, to USA Today. Though a wealth of usable satellite data exists, a large portion of it is stored on tape rather than being released, she told the newspaper. Google’s high-res maps will help people prepare for extreme heat, drought, sea level rise and flooding "as easily as they use Google maps to get driving directions,” Moore told USA Today.
The initiative is the latest in a series that Obama put forth last year and then earlier this year, when he announced a task force that included two tribal members.
This was followed by the designation of seven climate change hubs to study the issue, two of them in Indian country, and then by the announcement of a climate resilience fund.
The White House detailed its plans in a fact sheet and on the website Climate.Data.gov, “Welcome to Climate.Data.gov!” Above all, the government said, working together is key, with the site’s goal being to pull all available data together and enable people to use it.
“This community is still a prototype, and we need your help to improve and grow it,” the government said. “We welcome you and your feedback.”