September 24th, 2016 by Stephen Hanley
Climate change has many components — rising sea levels, alterations in rainfall patterns, and an increase in severe storm activity, among others. Communities around the world are faced with the need to plan for climate change but don’t have the information available to do so effectively.
Two such communities are Sonoma, California, and Caldas, Colombia. Sonoma vineyards must find a way to keep their grapes from shrivelling due to decreased rainfall and long-term drought conditions. Caldas is facing devastating floods and landslides that endanger its coffee growers.
Thanks to a USAID initiative, representatives from both regions were able to meet and exchange ideas over a two-week period recently. Sonoma shared its climate risk data, and Caldas shared its watershed management planning information, enabling both to learn from the other. Together, they identified the best climate data available, determined the risks each faces, and shared resiliency planning best practices.
This new working relationship highlighted the need to make climate change data available to community planners so that they can make the best policy decisions when creating strategies for resiliency in the face of coming climate alterations. The world is becoming more and more data driven, but much of the information on climate change is stored on government and research servers in a form that is too technical for planners to understand. There is a need to make that data available in a jargon-free format and with guidance on how to use it effectively.
A new organization will do just that. On September 22, PREP, the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness, was launched by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, World Resources Institute, U.S. Global Change Research Program, and a host of industry supporters including Microsoft and Google. PREP will harness the data revolution to strengthen climate resilience efforts, streamline climate data delivery, and inform researchers and data providers which climate data are most valuable.
A Platform and a Partnership for Resilience
PREP is an open-source platform that provides access to data from NASA, NOAA, and other sources. It will allow planners in need of 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.
Over the next 12 months, PREP will expand the functionality of the platform. Here’s one example of how it envisions its resources being 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 and were able to work together to solve climate resilience challenges. With a rapidly changing climate, there is a need for a way in which all communities can work to understand the risks they face and get resilience planning assistance. PREP will help connect communities on the front lines of climate change find the information they need.
John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, says the project comes as communities worldwide face rising seas, more severe droughts, and other climate-related extreme weather. “Critical to building climate resilience is ensuring easy access to authoritative, actionable data about ongoing and projected impacts of climate change,” he says.
PREP is a first step toward using data to assist mankind meet one of its most critical challenges.
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