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John Podesta
Special White House Adviser John Podesta
The White House rolled out a new project Wednesday designed to help local communities use existing federal and other data to cope with climate change. The Climate Data Initiative is, as several commentators have pointed out, a geeky response designed to show, among other things, which locales are most vulnerable to coastal flooding. The announcement came in a post on the White House blog from Obama's special adviser John Podesta and science adviser John P. Holdren:
Data from NOAA, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Defense, and other Federal agencies will be featured on climate.data.gov, a new section within data.gov that opens for business today. The first batch of climate data being made available will focus on coastal flooding and sea level rise. NOAA and NASA will also be announcing an innovation challenge calling on researchers and developers to create data-driven simulations to help plan for the future and to educate the public about the vulnerability of their own communities to sea level rise and flood events.

These and other Federal efforts will be amplified by a number of ambitious private commitments. For example, Esri, the company that produces the ArcGIS software used by thousands of city and regional planning experts, will be partnering with 12 cities across the country to create free and open “maps and apps” to help state and local governments plan for climate change impacts.

Google, Intel and Microsoft are all on board to contribute their expertise as well as vast amounts of computing time and storage to the project. Google alone will provide a petabyte of cloud storage for climate data. Rebecca Moore, the engineering manager of Google Earth Engine & Earth Outreach, said the company plans to help people prepare for extreme heat, drought, sea level rise and flooding "as easily as they use Google maps to get driving directions."

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

A fact sheet on specifics of who will be doing what in this seminal public-private partnership can be read here.

As Coral Davenport at the New York Times points out, until the climate science, mapping and other capabilities are transformed into easy-to-use applications, "the site will remain very much in its testing phase. ... Average users will not be able to do much yet on their own. Instead, NASA and the NOAA will call on researchers and private companies to create software simulations illustrating the impact of sea level rise."

Senior Policy Analyst Rob Moore at the Natural Resources Defense Council notes that one federal agency that won't be included at the site is the Federal Emergency Management Agency even though it probably does more mapping than any other U.S. government operation. FEMA maps are drafted for purposes of federal flood insurance, but they don't yet take into account future sea-level rise.

What the White House might ponder while climate.data.gov gets honed is establishing another site, a twin, if you will. This would be sort of a reverse website of climate.data.gov to provide information from municipalities, states and—dare I suggest—foreign nations that have already adopted measures to deal with climate change. Many of those policies, such as requirements for efficiency standards and for how much future electricity should be provided from renewable sources, are the sort of farsighted moves that would be of interest to communities just getting started on passing measures related to global warming.

Many of those local and state policies ought to become elements of national policy. As such, the twin website ought to be required reading for every member of Congress, especially the ones who still believe that climate change is a hoax or those who don't think so but still can't get their butts in gear to do anything about it.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Thu Mar 20, 2014 at 03:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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