Bank Climate Change Portal Helps Visualize World Climate, Expands Access to Data

How much will temperatures rise in 30, 40, or 50 years? How could changing weather affect rain-fed crops in the Horn of Africa, or winter flooding and summer droughts in Uzbekistan? And what should countries do to prepare for more intense droughts and storms?

These are the kinds of questions the World Bank hopes to answer with a new initiative to expand access to climate data and spark innovation in the fight against climate change around the world.

A new Climate Change Knowledge Portal, launched today, includes visualization tools depicting temperature and rainfall scenarios to the year 2100. It links users to more than 250 climate indicators, and includes risk profiles for 31 countries where climate open data websites may launch in the next year.

In addition, a three-month competition – Apps for Climate – will kick off in December at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Modeled after the Bank’s 2010 Apps for Development challenge, the competition will encourage scientists, software developers, and others to create applications that use the wealth of climate data being made available to help solve the development problems that climate change poses.

The portal, competition, and data are the latest additions to the World Bank’s Open Data Initiative. They’re part of a new effort to make climate data more accessible and useful, and also complement a push for the practical application of climate change research driven by the Green Growth Knowledge Platform, a global network of researchers and development experts.

“Development solutions have their foundation in access to data, analysis and knowledge,” said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick. “This new initiative will put critical climate facts at the fingertips of policy makers, researchers, and development practitioners so the public and governments can debate and determine policies with better information about climate effects.”

“Making data available is one of the crucial steps toward building resilience to climate change.”

Saroj Jha, GFDRR Manager

Adds World Bank Climate Change Envoy Andrew Steer: “This Climate Change Knowledge Portal enables ministers, development institutions, and non-governmental organizations in developing countries to see within minutes what’s going to happen 30 or 40 years from now, based on the best scientific modeling that exists in the world. It’s a great tool for opening up discussion on the issues.”

Opening Climate Data ‘Increasingly Critical’

In the past, a wealth of raw data on climate has been under-used, often ending up as static PDFs or on specialists’ hard drives. The new Climate Portal aims to make it easier to access and use climate information from various sources, including the Bank’s open data catalogue.

“Opening climate data will encourage experts and innovators, wherever they may be, to come up with new tools for analyzing and managing the effects of climate change,” says Shaida Badiee, director of the Bank’s Development Data Group. “The combination of open data and innovative tools will be an excellent resource for countries as they develop plans for adapting to climate change.”

The portal allows users to query, map, compare, chart and summarize climate and climate-related information, as well as to visualize the effects of changing patterns of rainfall and temperature. It aids government ministries and World Bank teams in 130 countries where adapting to climate change is a development priority.

Modeling Risk in Mozambique

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), a partner of the Climate Portal, is supporting this effort through its Open Data for Resilience Initiative in 31 countries. GFDRR and government ministries are conducting disaster risk analyses, creating climate data websites, and developing applications to model risk.

“Making data available is one of the crucial steps toward building resilience to climate change,” says GFDRR Manager Saroj Jha. “Open data enables countries to develop the kinds of counter measures needed to deal with extreme events and which must be at the core of every country’s policy and planning.”

GFDRR expects 15 countries will have climate open data websites by May, and possibly 31 will have them by the end of 2012. Mozambique is likely to be first. The country already suffers from droughts, cyclones and coastal flooding, and is worried about projections that rainfall will decrease during the primary growing season.

Mozambique is one of many countries in the world facing such challenges. Mozambique’s disaster management agency and GFDRR are in the midst of building “climate decision” tools targeted to Mozambique’s needs, but which could be made freely available to other countries once they are developed, says Robert Soden of GFDRR’s technical Labs group.

One beneficiary could be the Horn of Africa, where the World Bank has committed $1.88 billion to help the region cope with severe drought and build drought resilience. The Bank, with GFDRR and other partners in the effort, including Google, the World Food Program, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), met earlier this month to discuss sharing data. A new Horn of Africa data website will be accessible through the Climate Change Knowledge Portal and the Open Data site.

“Because there is so much unknown and there is so much data out there, it’s going to be really important that the data is accessible,” said Jason Kessler of NASA. “To be able to really meaningfully study and understand what’s going on, it’s going to require as much information as people can get their hands on.”

“The Climate Change Knowledge Portal is a one-stop shop and will be an invaluable tool both for the Bank team and developing countries alike,” says Marianne Fay, chief economist in the Bank’s Sustainable Development Network. “The portal provides an ideal web-based platform to assist in knowledge development, planning and knowledge sharing for green development and resilience to climate change.”

Contributed to original post by Donna Barne, Corporate Communications, External Affairs