The Third National Climate Assessment confirms that ecosystems and the benefits they provide to society are being affected by climate change. These changes are having impacts on biodiversity and limiting the capacity of ecosystems—including forests, barrier beaches, and wetlands— to continue to play their roles in reducing the impacts of extreme events on infrastructure, human communities, and other valued resources.
Land and water managers, environmental planners, and those who rely on ecosystems to support and run businesses need easy, intuitive access to the most accurate and relevant available information about climate change in order to make informed decisions on the ground.
Today, in an important milestone to help achieve this goal, the Department of Interior and other Executive Branch agencies and offices are releasing, on climate.data.gov, new troves of government data on water and ecosystems, as well as new geospatial tools, as part of the President’s Climate Data Initiative. Earlier installments of that initiative focused on data relating to sea-level rise, flood risk, and agriculture.
The newly released datasets—which include critical information about streamflow, soil, landcover, and biodiversity and are complemented by tools to overlay and visualize them—will be extremely valuable to natural-resource managers faced with day-to-day and long-term strategic decisions about how to operate in the context of climate change.
In a further step to make these data as useful as possible, today a host of public, nonprofit, and private-sector organizations made commitments to devote resources, expertise, and technological capabilities to leverage climate data in ways that make the Nation’s ecosystems and water resources more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has committed to make a petabyte of Earth-imagery data from the U.S. Geological Survey widely available as an AWS public dataset; the University of Maryland’s Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center has committed to fund 25 early-career scholars as they conduct research at the nexus of water systems, food systems, and climate change; Esri will stand up a Water Open Data portal to extend accessibility of key water data through interactive services and tools by which selected data can be downloaded in various formats through an intuitive user interface; and HP has announced a partnership with the Camera Trap Data Network to create new data-sharing and analytic tools that allow users to access and analyze millions of camera-trap images and related data about threatened species and biodiversity.
Dr. John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy