ICT and Big Data
Microsoft, Google, Intel Join Obama’s Climate Data Initiative

Microsoft, Google and several other companies last week joined a new White House program to launch a suite of climate data projects aimed at serving businesses, governments and the public.

The Climate Data Initiative calls on the private sector to build tools using government datasets that will make communities “more resilient to climate change and to forge cross-sector partnerships to make those tools as useful as possible.”

More than 100 datasets, web services and tools related to coastal flooding and sea level rise are now publicly available at data.gov/climate. The site will expand over time to cover other climate-related topics, including human health, energy infrastructure and the food supply.

Meanwhile, the USGS, the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency have released mapping information regarding hundreds of thousands of the country’s infrastructure units and geographical features, such as bridges, railroad tunnels, roads, river gauges and canals.

The initiative is part of President Obama’s climate plan, outlined last June.

Businesses, hospitals, city planners and resource managers will all benefit from the data and tools, the White House says. Information on data.gov/climate could help builders avoid areas prone to future sea-level rise, and water utility operators to identify potential threats to the local water supply.

Some businesses involved in the Climate Data Initiative include:

  • Microsoft Research — The technology company will give 12 months of free cloud computing to 40 climate change scientists and decision-makers. Microsoft also launched a free resource, Adaptable FetchClimate, for retrieving past and present observations and for future climate-prediction information.
  • Google — The search company has committed to provide one petabyte (1,000 terabytes) of cloud storage to house satellite observations, digital elevation data, and climate and weather model datasets drawn from government open data. Google also has formed partnerships with the Desert Research Institute, the University of Idaho, and the University of Nebraska to model water consumption from vegetation around the world, and provide near real-time drought mapping and monitoring for the entire continental US.
  • Intel Corporation — The company will sponsor three regional partnerships such as “hackathon” events and San Jose.
  • Esri — The GIS mapping software company will develop and publish a series of free and open “maps and apps” developed in partnership with 12 cities to address issues including droughts, heat waves or flooding. Esri also has announced an online portal for sharing climate-related resources.

Other organizations involved in the effort include the World Bank, NASA, MIT, Antioch University New England, CartoDB, Code for America, the Rockefeller Foundation, annual hackathon EcoHack and the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

In related news, to commemorate World Water Day on Saturday, WWF unveiled its updated Water Risk Filter. The new version of the free online tool allows users to map production facilities, supply chains and commodities, and includes data on more than 120 agricultural commodities — including cotton, palm oil and corn — making it the most sophisticated tool for tracking water risk exposure.

And last month, Apple, SolarCity, San Diego International Airport, Sungevity and Sapphire Energy joined more than 120 California-based companies in signing the Climate Declaration, a business leader call to action that urges federal and state policymakers to seize the economic opportunity of addressing climate change. Launched last year by Ceres and its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), the Climate Declaration has more than 700 signatories nationwide, including General Motors, Unilever, Gap and eBay.

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