data meets climate panel discussion

Expert Forum Explores Data-Driven Innovation to Fight Climate Change

The power of data and data science holds great promise in providing the information and tools needed to create innovative ideas for effective climate solutions. That was the theme from a recent forum in New York City that brought together data scientists, researchers and innovators to explore technology-based actions to benefit climate.

The “Special Session: Data Meets Climate” of General Assembly’s “Talk Data to Me” series, featured a panel discussion of data and scientific experts that reviewed ways to interconnect data access, data science and climate science to spur data-driven innovation to fight climate change. The session was moderated by Megan Geuss, an editor at Ars Technica.

The panel members were:

  • Janet George, Chief Data Officer, Western Digital
  • Robert Kirkpatrick, Director, UN Global Pulse
  • Amy Luers, Director of Climate Change, Skoll Global Threats Fund

The panel opened with comments on how working towards sustainable development goals presents an incredible opportunity to make climate progress. But that achieving those goals is going to require a very different way of making decisions – with analytics and data scientists being key factors to success.

Kirkpatrick called out data philanthropy – private and public sector data sharing – as having a growing role in supporting the search for climate-related solutions. Data philanthropy enables datasets – anonymized and aggregated to protect privacy – to be available to researchers studying climate change. “It’s taking off now. It’s a movement,” noted Kirkpatrick.

George added the public also has a contributory data role that helps make data assets richer. She cited as an example how mobile data that tracks individual transit patterns adds information to emissions research. “There is a participatory role in what data we provide,” said George.

Luers said data scientists need to partner with others to drive climate change solutions. She continued that to have a “big, transformative impact,” data scientists must work with more traditional science communities – both biophysical and social – as well as policy makers to achieve solutions which “help society take action.”

The event was part of Data for Climate Action, an initiative to harness data science and big data from the private sector to address one of the world’s biggest challenges led by Global Pulse, the United Nations innovation program on big data, and Western Digital.

Kirkpatrick commended the “open innovation model” of Data for Climate Action. He said its approach is helping the innovation ecosystem to “advance every part of the journey” on the road to data-driven climate progress.

Data for Climate Action targets three areas relevant to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal on climate action (SDG 13): climate mitigation, climate adaptation, and the linkages between climate change and the broader 2030 Agenda.