THE BLOG
09/26/2016 12:20 pm ET

PREP-aring For A Changing Climate By Harnessing The Data Revolution

Co-authored by Francis Gassert

Sonoma County, California and Caldas, Colombia are very different communities, yet they share a common threat—climate change.

Both cities have similar ecological landscapes and agricultural resources. Sonoma’s wine region is vulnerable to changing rainfall patterns and droughts spurred by warming temperatures; Caldas’ coffee fields face devastating floods and landslides.

So they joined forced to tackle their shared problem. Through a USAID program, Sonoma and Caldas experts met in each location for a total of two weeks, identified the best climate data available, determined the risks they face and shared resiliency planning best practices, including engaging farmers and accounting for carbon storage in watersheds. Sonoma shared its climate risk data, and Caldas shared its watershed management planning information, enabling both to learn from the other.

The case of Sonoma and Caldas is a climate resilience success story, but it’s a rare one. Communities like them worldwide face the same kinds of problems, but typically lack necessary access to data and guidance to accurately assess risks. Without this information, they can’t make infrastructure investment decisions to protect themselves from escalating climate impacts.

Help is on the way. The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP), a public-private partnership launching today, will harness the data revolution to strengthen climate resilience efforts, streamline climate data delivery, and inform researchers and data providers on which climate data are most valuable.

PREP is being launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), World Resources Institute (WRI), U.S. Global Change Research Program  (USGCRP) and a network of entities working on climate impact data.

A Platform and a Partnership for Resilience

PREP convenes government collaborators, tech companies, civil society and local governments around the world to create more resilient communities through:

  • An open, accessible platform: While abundant climate data exists, it often resides in government and research silos or is overly technical, with insufficient guidance on which data to use and how to use it. PREP’s first major output is an open-source beta information platform building on the data architecture of WRI’s Resource Watch collaborative. It facilitates access to critical data sets from entities like NASA, NOAA and DOI, transforming them into actionable information that users will eventually be able to contextualize with local knowledge, such as the location of critical infrastructure or vulnerable populations in a specific community. Data flows in and out of the PREP platform from multiple sources, with users like local governments, businesses and real estate developers accessing government data for their specific locations.

 

  • Designed by communities, for communities: PREP’s beta platform is being launched with collaborating communities in Sonoma County, California; Puget Sound, Washington; and Porto Alegre, Brazil. Over the next 12 months, PREP will work with other communities, while continually adding new datasets and case studies as they become available, as well as new partners. Eventually, the PREP platform will also help communities like Sonoma and Caldas find each other, connect, and share data and stories of the risks they face and how they are building resilience.
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  • A Platform AND a Partnership: PREP is more than just a data platform—it will also feature working groups including the world’s leading researchers and data providers, such as federal agencies. This will allow planners consuming climate data to interact directly with the data providers, with both groups learning from each other. Analysts will get climate change data tailored to their location and context to make smart planning decisions, while science translators will learn which tools can help them meet the tailored needs of local planners.
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  • Customization: In the next planned upgrade of the platform, users will be able to create customized dashboards showing live indicators of climate risk, access and visualize data without worrying about storage shortages or software challenges, and create a learning environment with other communities.
  • Over the next 12 months, we will expand the functionality of the platform. Here’s one example of how we envision it will be used:

    Imagine a town planner is developing a climate risk assessment in response to growing public concern after a spate of storms and floods. She convenes a team to conduct an assessment using PREP. The team easily accesses data on climate change and variability—such as temperature increases or sea level rise and rainfall projections—and combines them with local data about critical infrastructure and their vulnerabilities, such as roads, housing developments or power plants. The team can then integrate these findings and data points into their own online community dashboard to provide insights into how climate change could impact their specific circumstances, making long-term planning more climate resilient.

    Creating a More Resilient Future

    Sonoma and Caldas were lucky—thanks to USAID, they found each other to solve climate resilience challenges. But with a rapidly changing climate, we need a way for all communities to understand the risks they face and get resilience planning assistance.

    PREP can help connect communities on the front lines of climate change find the information they need. Visit the PREP beta platform to join the growing partnership, and harness the data revolution to make neighborhoods around the world more resilient.

    PREP collaborating partners include: Amazon Web Services, CARTO, Descartes Labs, Earth Knowledge, Esri, Federation of Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP), Future Earth, Forum One, Google Cloud Platform, Google Earth Engine, Group on Earth Observations, Microsoft, Sonoma County Climate Resilience Team, U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), Vizzuality, The Weather Company (an IBM Business), World Resources Institute

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