Earth Day Roundup: A Year of Climate Action
Solving global issues takes global partnerships.
That’s why addressing problems such as climate change are too complex for one person to figure out alone. There are just too many pieces to the puzzle: from climate data to governmental policies to public and private data collaboration.
Climate action is the “elephant in the room”, a pressing issue that attracts many passionate thoughts and opinions. But, with all ideas on the table, it’s important to keep in mind the long-term health of our planet. If we avoid answering the call to protect our climate, then there might be unintended consequences.
Clean the Air, Save More Lives
Protecting our climate starts with cleaning our atmosphere. After all, access to clean air is vital for people to stay healthy and live longer. Yet, in some parts of the world, people are surrounded by air that’s filled with particulates and other toxic particles. One global health organization estimates that there are 3 million deaths each year as a result of outdoor air pollution.
This past year, we thought big and worked together to move the needle on climate action. We partnered with a prestigious group of public organizations, private companies, and the innovation branch of the world’s largest intergovernmental organization to host a data innovation challenge. The goal? To find solutions for climate mitigation, adaptation, and data visualization.
Our grand prize winning team tackled the issue of air pollution in Mexico City. The authors found that heavy smog in the city leads to more than 10,000 premature deaths each year. Real lives are at stake here. The team’s winning entry used transportation data from a leading GPS navigation software company to make a transformational proposal: to clean the air and provide better transportation in Mexico City through optimized public transportation routes and electrified buses.
Pollution doesn’t only affect human health; it also affects our wallets. Using anonymized financial transactions and climate data from Spain, a team formed from an Ivy League data science group made an important discovery. When there is more polluted air outside, people tend to spend less money. This finding alone is a harmful, unintended consequence of neglecting our climate.
Another contributor to poor air quality is greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, though, the source of the emissions varies. For example, a team from a well-known university lab in New York used a combination of land use, energy consumption, and location-based datasets to model greenhouse gas emissions in New York City. With real-time tracking of emissions, local policymakers can make more informed decisions based on data.
Climate Action by the Experts
Around the world, each person can take steps to reduce their impact on the climate. We talked with a few industry leaders from the public and private sector to find out how they work with an “environmentally-conscious” mindset. In our first panel discussion, we invited four representatives from private businesses to share their thoughts on responsible data-sharing policies and procedures.
For our second group conversation, titled “The Future of Big Data and Climate Action“, our guests hailed from Silicon Valley powerhouses to global non-profits. The panelists covered how data-driven innovation is a powerful tool to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. There are challenges, of course, and the speakers also brought up the challenges and silos that remain in climate action.
Looking Forward to More Progress
We observe International Mother Earth Day 2018, not only for the work that we’ve done so far but for the work that remains for us to do. It’s an exciting time to use the power of data and technology to protect our environment! We look forward to more conversations, collaborations, and celebrations. Our attitude about climate action remains the same, optimistic. Happy Earth Day!