Just in time for the US presidential election to heat up to the boiling point, the White House has launched a new initiative that enlists an A-list of scientific data experts in both government and business to help communities prepare for climate change impacts. Called PREP for the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness, the new initiative teams the World Resources Institute with NOAA, NASA, DOI, Google, IBM, and Amazon Web Services, among many others.
Climate Change And The 2016 US Presidential Election Cycle
Climate change is a particularly interesting issue in this presidential cycle because both main candidates have come out swinging for their respective positions, which are exactly the opposite of each other.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has weighed in with a laundry list of reality-based initiatives for decarbonization and environmental protection, which you can see on her campaign website.
Republican candidate Donald Trump, meanwhile, has gone on the record with numerous statements like this:
“Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, okay? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”
That kind of contrast between the two major-party candidates is a big switch from the 2012 presidential cycle. Back then, Republican candidate Mitt Romney did rest his campaign on support for the fossil fuel industry, but he never accused the global scientific community of perpetrating a hoax, let alone colluding with businesses to line their pockets.
In the runup to the 2012 campaign, Romney was actually on record agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change and its causes.
There are two more or less well known third-party candidates in the 2016 cycle, but don’t expect much in the way of climate action from either of them.
As a Libertarian, Gary Johnson is no particular fan of government policies that favor decarbonization. Here’s a snippet straight from his campaign website:
“Johnson does not, however, believe the government should be engaging in social and economic engineering for the purpose of creating winners and losers in what should be a robust free market. Preventing a polluter from harming our water or air is one thing. Having politicians in Washington, D.C., acting on behalf of high powered lobbyists, determine the future of clean energy innovation is another.”
He does profess to be a big fan of National Parks, but other prominent Libertarians (likethese guys and their supporters in Congress) favor turning over federal land to private ownership, so it’s not clear how far his love of the outdoors would fly.
Jill Stein doesn’t seem to have a workable solution at hand, either. Her “Power to the People” plan calls for a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030. That’s about 14 years from now.
Stein doesn’t go into any particulars, so if you can find some details about how this would happen, please share in the comment thread.
For now, let’s just say that 14 years is an awfully short time and there is lots to be done. Here’s the current breakdown of fuel sources for electricity from US Energy Information Agency data:
- Coal = 28%
- Natural gas = 33%
- Nuclear = 20%
- Hydropower = 8%
- Other renewables = 9% (Biomass 1.6%, Geothermal 0.4%, Solar 1.3% Wind 5.9%).
That’s just electricity. Fossil fuels also currently play a big role in the transportation and manufacturing sectors, as well as in HVAC and water heating systems, so if you add all that to the pile, we really have our work cut out for us.
It’s Time To “PREP” For Climate Change
Where were we? Oh, right, the new PREP initiative. You can get more details from theWorld Resources Institute, but for those of you on the go, PREP is basically a one-stop, open-source resource for communities to make fact-based decisions about their long-term infrastructure plans.
For example, the folks at PREP point out that coastal properties and roads are already at risk:
“Nearly 1.9 million U.S. homes, valued at $882 billion, at risk of flooding from sea level rise. Approximately 60,000 miles of U.S. coastal roads already exposed to flooding from coastal storms and high waves.”
PREP promises that it will not just throw data up online and see what sticks. The idea is to present and translate useful information into forms that planners and policymakers can grasp. Here’s an explainer from Janet Ranganathan, Vice President for Science and Research at WRI:
“PREP will leverage open data and open-source computing to build resilience planning across the globe by connecting those making decisions with the data they need, in a format they can use. Harnessing the data revolution to improve climate resilience will only be possible with collaborative partnerships across government, civil society, the private sector, and community organizations.”
The initiative also promises transparency when it comes to disclosing whether the data source is coming from a government agency or a business source.
So, How Can I PREP?
Eventually, you’ll be able to visit PREP at prepdata.org and create a customized climate risk dashboard for your community. For now, though, the initiative consists of a beta platform that includes Sonoma County, California; the Washington State Climate Impacts Group; Porto Alegre, Brazil; and the US National Climate Assessment team.
Over the next year or so, PREP will be adding datasets and case studies as they become available, while scaling up the beta launch to include more communities.
Btw, if you’re not familiar with WRI, they’re the folks behind the Climate Analysis Indicators Tool. They’ve also developed a carbon pricing toolkit for policymakers. Actually, they’ve done great work in various ways for decades.