New Public-Private Partnership Launched to Help Communities Bridge Gap Between Climate Data and Resiliency Planning

Climate data, such as this visualisation from 2003 showing regions (red) that experienced decreased plant productivity due to drought, can help communities around the world to make smart choices. Graphic: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Future Earth is a partner on a newly-launched effort to put data and information to use in helping communities respond to the impacts of climate change.

A version of this press release originally appeared on the website of the World Resources Institute (WRI).

White House OSTP and partners launch Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) to harness the data revolution for climate resilience by helping local governments access the best available information to manage climate risks. Future Earth is a partner on this effort.

See the official White House fact sheet here.

Climate change is accelerating the intensity and frequency of extreme weather across the globe, with increasing risks to communities and businesses. 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 partners today launched the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) to help communities, companies and investors use data to improve climate resilience planning.

Harnessing the data revolution to improve climate resilience efforts will require a diverse set of partners including government, civil society, the private sector and international organisations.

“Understanding the threats posed by climate change and extreme weather are critical to protecting people, homes, businesses and livelihoods. Data must be part of the solution,” said Janet Ranganathan, Vice President for Science and Research, WRI. “PREP will leverage open data and open-source computing to help planners build resilience in their communities by connecting those making decisions with the data they need, in a format they can use. Harnessing the data revolution as a force for good to strengthen climate resilience will only be possible with partnerships across government, civil society, the private sector and community organisations.”

PREP collaborating partners working on platform development include WRI, NASA, the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Department of the Interior, Amazon Web Services, CARTO, Descartes Labs, Earth Knowledge, Esri, Google Cloud Platform, Google Earth Engine, Sonoma County Climate Resilience Team and Vizzuality. In its interagency capacity, USGCRP will act as the government-coordinating partner. Additional working group collaborators include Earth Science Information Partners, Forum One, Future Earth, Group on Earth Observations, Microsoft and The Weather Company (an IBM Business).

PREP, which emerged out of the Climate Data Initiative, seeks to empower a data-driven approach to building climate resilience by:

  • Engaging communities to identify data needs.
  • Identifying and reducing the barriers to access, contribute, and use data and information products for climate resilience.
  • Developing an open-source platform to enhance access to and usability of climate-relevant data and information.
  • Translating data into actionable information to help inform planning decisions for people on the ground and providing access to the necessary tools and functionality communities need – data availability alone is not enough.
  • Providing data translators with easy access to usable data they need in order to develop the decision-support tools needed to inform and build climate resilience.

"PREP is about reaching not just across the federal government, but across the public and private sectors, seeking out the best talent, the best capabilities to turn Earth science data into accessible information,” said Dr. Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist, NASA. “And nothing could be more critical than making this country, and countries around the world, more resilient to the effects of climate change."

While the world urgently needs to develop and harness data to better understand how climate change is affecting local communities, climate data is often inaccessible, trapped in silos or too technical to use. Government and private sector planners typically have to rely on static reports or sort through hundreds of sources with conflicting or confusing data, often without guidance on what data exists, which data to use for projections, where data comes from or if it is outdated.

Conversely, federal agencies have a vast supply of data, updated frequently from satellites and other sources, without a direct connection to the users who need it. And governments often don’t know the specific data needs of planners – meaning information may be discarded without knowing its value.

PREP seeks to bridge this gap by launching a beta platform, www.prepdata.org, to provide local governments with dynamic data, climate reports and projections directly sourced from NASA, NOAA and others as they become available. The platform will be open-source and technology agnostic to suit the needs of all users. PREP seeks to empower users to pull information relevant to their community into data-driven dashboards that can better guide climate adaption decisions.

“People around the world need high-quality data and information to make critical choices about the challenges they face every day, from securing adequate supplies of water in the face of extreme droughts to protecting natural resources in a changing climate," said Joshua Tewksbury, Director of the Colorado Global Hub, Future Earth. "We see PREP as a powerful platform for generating data and information resources that meet the needs of global societies – by designing and producing those resources in collaboration with the people and organisations who will use them to build real-world solutions for their communities.”

Government partners like NASA, NOAA and DOI will provide global climate data and modeling; private technology partners will provide additional data and engineering support; and civil society groups will help engage users to understand their needs. WRI is the non-government partnership coordinator, focused on developing the beta PREP platform, which is powered by Resource Watch, an open architecture data system. In its interagency capacity, USGCRP will act as the government-coordinating partner.

The PREP beta platform is launching with domestic and international collaborators, including Sonoma County, California; the Washington State Climate Impacts Group; Porto Alegre, Brazil; and the U.S. National Climate Assessment team. PREP plans to scale up after launch with testing in other communities around the global over the next 12 months.

“Sonoma County is in the midst of experiencing climate change and that means higher temperatures, more extreme rainfall events and prolonged droughts. PREP has helped our community work together and integrate climate risk data into one central online tool that is available to our whole community,” said Efren Carrillo, Chairman of the Sonoma County Water Agency. “Before PREP, this data had no single home; instead it was fragmented amongst our government agencies and community organisations. Our urban planners, farmers and community now have the ability to plan for the future with this critical PREP climate resiliency tool.”

PREP will seek to expand data transparency so planners know if data comes from governments or commercial entities, clarifying data sources from the start to distinguish which data are most useful. Users will be able to share their plans, learn from others and pull government data from multiple global datasets for specific locations. PREP will also promote data publication standards – especially from government entities – ensuring published data formats and data types produced by agencies are useful for long-term planning.

The ability to create customised climate risk dashboards is expected to be fully ready and publicly available for any user within one year. In the interim, the partnership will continually add datasets and case studies as available.

Additional quotes

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere:

"Communities across the country are becoming more vulnerable to natural disasters and adverse long-term environmental changes. NOAA has long provided information and services that help communities tackle such challenges head on and become more resilient. We look forward to working with this partnership to make it even easier for decision makers to find and use the tools and data they need most."

Javier de la Torre, Chief Executive Officer, CARTO:

“In the area of climate change, the universalisation of data and digital tools will be key to enabling and empowering the millions of eyes we are going to need to overcome its challenges. CARTO is committed to providing cutting edge self-service location intelligence technology to make PREP a big success.”

Thomas (Tod) Dabolt, Geospatial Information Officer, U.S. Department of the Interior:

“DOI will contribute relevant data and services from the Federal Geospatial Platform (GeoPlatform) and facilitate the delivery of Federal information on climate resilience. DOI will improve the reliability and performance of the most widely used PREP climate services in cooperation with other Federal agencies, developing those data by leveraging the GeoPlatform's cloud-hosting services. DOI will also enhance users’ ability to search and use climate data through open-application-programing interfaces (APIs) delivered through the GeoPlatform and used by PREP.”

Steven Brumby, cofounder & Chief Strategy Officer, Descartes Labs:

“As humans we’re conditioned to naturally react and adapt to changes with the weather or surrounding environment, but we lack the necessary information to notice these warning signs in advance. We rely on maps to understand the world around us, but there are so many layers and caveats that maps do not see. What we need is a living, breathing atlas that can continuously provide data about our planet so we can react accordingly. The PREP platform is the answer to making real-time, scientific climate data, forecasts and insights easily digestible and available to the widest possible audience."

Julia Armstrong D’Agnese, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Earth Knowledge:

“As a technology company, we see PREP bringing order to some of the chaos of disparate environmental data and tools by providing integrated government agency data, and integrated dashboard tools that communities world-wide can select from and customise for their own needs. From the perspective of the Engaged Community with Sonoma County, PREP facilitates isolated global communities to learn from each other and provide a way to bring valuable information from many different organisations together for decision-making potentially saving lives, resources, and costs.”

Andrew Turner, Director and Chief Technology Officer, Esri Research and Development Center in Washington, D.C.:

“Increasing access to scientific information offers a dramatic opportunity to improve climate-affected decision making by local governments and business. We’re dedicated to supporting government agencies making their data available to the public and citizen tools for telling their story.”

Chris Wolz, Chief Executive Officer, Forum One:

“We are pleased to work with PREP to define the data and digital needs of communities around the world working to address climate resilience. It's critical to have a strong understanding of the users' needs to guide PREP and its partners in developing improved data services to aid in resilience planning across infrastructure, health, agriculture and other sectors."

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft:

“Decision-makers today are facing increasingly complex challenges related to climate change. By making critical data both more accessible and rapidly available, we can accelerate the development of tools, such as PREP, that harness that data to empower communities to make smarter decisions. Microsoft is enthusiastic about joining with government and private industry partners to tap into the power of data and technology to improve urban resiliency, risk management challenges and help address climate change.”

David González, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Vizzuality:

“Simply having access to data is not enough if we want to make our planet resilient to climate change. We need people to use that data and share their insights with the rest of the community. The PREP platform combines open-source technology and intuitive design to create a place that inspires people to take action and share their stories of how they did it. As the PREP community grows we’ll gather more data and insight which in turn will lead to better climate policies and a bigger impact.”