Climate Data Initiative and Resilient Cities

This past week I had the honor of representing 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), and by extension our first cohort of member cities, in committing 100RC’s support to the launch of the White House’s Climate Data Initiative. As an urban planner who has been known to wax geeky on how geographic information systems (GIS) are to planners as calculators are to mathematicians, I was pretty thrilled to hear first-hand what new data sets and analysis tools are in store with the launch of www.data.gov/climate/.

As part of its launch, the CDI has released data sets on coastal flooding and sea level rise – with future plans for the release of data on climate risks to human health, food supply, and energy infrastructure. There is a lot of insight to gain from this data. But making it available to the public is only the first step in making change. The White House and federal agency executives are partnering with technology leaders and resilience innovators such as the World Bank, Google, Intel, Esri, and roughly a dozen others, including 100RC, to analyze the data and begin creating action plans based on the trends they uncover.

The release of this data has ongoing implications for how cities build resilience into their day-to-day functions. Climate data can be used to build tools that help to more effectively create and guide:

  • Land use laws and building codes
  • Coastal zone management
  • Asset management and estimating lifecycle costs
  • Storm and wastewater management
  • Utility planning such as water or energy produced by hydro-power
  • Evacuation and shelter planning

Cities also have a pressing need for tools that communicate the risks climate data exposes. CDI partners are working on climate-data visualization tools as a way to educate and engage diverse stakeholders. A better understanding of the data’s far-reaching implications will enable communities to play an active role in building resilience at every level.

The support of leaders from the private-sector combined with the imperative for government transparency that characterize the Climate Data Initiative represent an excellent model of resilience building. In launching the Initiative, the White House has made an intentional push to include the voices of cities from across the country. In fact, four 100RC member cities were at the launch (New Orleans, New York, Norfolk, and Oakland) among representatives from other US cities and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN).

At 100RC, we intend to use the learnings from our work with cities, not just from across the United States, but from around the world, to identify the tools that best inform and help urban resilience-building efforts. Our next step will be to ensure investments are directed toward the tools that achieve the greatest impact. The goal is to let innovators know how great the market opportunity for these tools are, and to funnel existing tools into the hands of key city decision makers.

We look forward to developing these learnings with our member cities.

*Head photo: Putneypics, Flickr