White House hopes to fight climate change with data sharing

A public-private partnership will build an open-source platform to boost information access.

Kevin Lamarque / REUTERS

Despite some scary evidence that climate change is affecting weather patterns and even shifting how the Earth moves, 43 percent of Americans wouldn't spend a buck a month to fight it. With Congressional deadlock standing in the way of a national strategy to combat it, the White House has launched its own endeavor to find solutions. In typical Obama fashion, it involves making government data public. The Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) will give organizations access to troves of environmental information so they can make their own plans to counter climate change.

PREP is a coalition between federal agencies, NGOs, companies and civil organizations to create an accessible open-source platform to collaborate and share data. It came out of the Climate Data Initiative (CDI), a public-private project to determine the best use of the government's collected climate information. Participants decided that lowering barriers and easing global access to the CDI's data drove would do the most good, hence PREP's international focus.

To bolster that, the Obama Administration released a joint declaration today signed by 13 other countries and a few tech heavyweights, all urging greater global collaboration to collect and share information. The call to action pledges mobilizing all sectors to build dedicated data centers, support sharing of relevant and historical weather records, and to support user-friendly and open-source platforms. Essentially, pushing countries worldwide to develop their own PREP equivalent, with notes to embrace technical and climate data standards to ensure everyone's program plays well with others.

Perhaps most sobering is the declaration's language, abandoning the call to simply fight climate change in favor of the more defensive urge to gather data and establish "climate resiliency." Sharing information, it states, will be key to global damage control.