Unlocking Climate Solutions? Our Winning Teams Have The Key

From consumer spending changes when local air quality is bad to planting wheat on the most optimal days of the year, the Data for Climate Action Challenge (D4CA) inspired many innovative and insightful solutions aiming to harness big data and data science to accelerate climate solutions.

Organized by UN Global Pulse with the support of Western Digital, the D4CA award presentations in November provided opportunity for the teams taking home the Grand Prize Award, Thematic Awards, and Data Visualization Awards to speak to the assembled audience of media, officials, business leaders, and other data scientists about their solutions and the data sets they had analyzed.

In this article, we’ll highlight the winners and bring you on-demand video of their remarks so you can learn more about their data innovation projects. You can also watch the event in full at

The Grand Prize was awarded to a team from the University of California, Berkeley and the Instituto Nacional de Ecología y Cambio Climático for researching Mexico City’s traffic patterns and analyzing Waze data to evaluate transportation electrification policies that can potentially help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Watch them accept the top prize for Electro-mobility: Cleaning Mexico City’s Air with Big Data and Climate Policy in the video below:

NOTE: The Grand Prize Winners were also interviewed by WIRED. Check out that interview here.

Focus on Floods, Fires, and Spending

  • Three teams that won Thematic Awards in climate mitigation, adaptation and climate and other SDGs were on site to present their solutions and accept their awards. Watch their full presentations in the video below. Air Pollution Induced Micro-migrations: Impacts on Consumer Spending – A team from Yale University used financial transaction data from BBVA Data and Analytics and weather data from Earth Networks and evaluated spending pattern shifts related to air quality in Spain.
  • Predicting and Alleviating Road Flooding for Climate Mitigation – A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology used data from mobile operator Orange to develop a framework for improving the resilience of road networks in Senegal when they face flooding, including how to prioritize road improvements limited by budget.
  • EMMA: Ecosystem Monitoring for Management Application – A team from the University of Cape Town and the University of Buffalo used Planet satellite data to develop a platform for near real-time prediction and monitoring of the impact of forest fires in South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region.

Displaying Data for Climate Solutions in a Great Way

The two teams that took home Data Visualization Awards for their climate solutions were:

A Framework for the Optimization of Winter Wheat Seeding Date – A team based in Turkey used tools from Tableau to visualize a framework they created to determine the best winter seeding date for wheat when studied in the context of climate adaptation.

Urban Physiology: A Dynamic Spatial-Temporal Model of Urban Carbon Emissions to Drive Climate Action by Cities – A team from New York University built a dashboard combining data from Crimson Hexagon, Plume Labs and other sources that displays a high-resolution hourly model of urban carbon emissions that can inform decision-making by urban policymakers.

View the Data Visualization Award winners’ solutions in the video clip below:


The United Nations Global Pulse, an innovation initiative on big data and data science, and Western Digital recently announced the winners of the Data for Climate Action Challenge (D4CA) at the Data Innovation: Generating Climate Solutions event during the United Nations climate change conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany.

 An unprecedented open innovation challenge to harness data science and big data from the private sector to fight climate change, D4CA was launched in early 2017 and called on innovators, scientists, and climate experts to use data to accelerate climate solutions.

 Access to large amounts of data – anonymized and aggregated to protect privacy – accelerates the ability to spot connections, gain insight and develop predictive algorithms that can provide more precise direction and decisions. The Data for Climate Action Challenge demonstrates what’s possible when public and private sector organizations partner for social good.

Data Makes Possible will be following the winners as they work to implement their climate solutions and bring real change to our world. We’ll also publish interviews with the thematic and data visualization winners in the coming weeks.