WASHINGTON, March 20, 2014 – The Obama administration yesterday launched its Climate Data Initiative, another weapon in the government’s larger effort to combat and understand climate change. The initiative is an attempt to use the government’s climate-relevant data resources, including information from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to “stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate-change preparedness,” the White House said yesterday.

While the data, which includes information on costal flooding and sea level rise, will be available to all Americans on climate.data.gov, the administration made clear that it expects private industry to make the most use of the release.

“We need more companies from the tech sector and other industries standing up” to use the released data, John Podesta, a counselor to President Obama, told government officials, business leaders and reporters yesterday evening.at a White House event dedicated to the initiative.

In addition to Podesta, a parade of private sector leaders – including representatives from the Intel Corporation, Google and Esri, a global mapping software company – presented plans yesterday for their own use of the data.

Google Earth Engine founder Rebecca Moore said her firm would be creating free, online products that could be immediately useful to the agriculture community. She said that Google Earth, among other projects, would use its existing satellite photos of the globe and data mined from federal sources to create agricultural water maps that could, for example, show how much water is currently in the depleting Ogallala Aquifer.

Assembling data and making those images will take “millions of hours with a computer,” Moore said, “but we have lots of computers.”

Moore said Google would also work with partners to create widely accessible images of sea level rise should climate change continue as predicted. The maps, available on the web, will use high definition images of homes to show the human cost of climate change.

“It’s one thing to have a map” of sea level rise, she said – “it’s another to have a picture of your home.”

Though a number of agriculture tech firms told Agri-Pulse it was too soon to tell how they would use the data release, administration officials indicated the information could be of other uses to the agriculture community.

“Over time, these data and resources will expand to provide information on other climate-relevant threats, such as to human health, energy infrastructure, and our food supply,” the White House said in a release.


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