The White House on Wednesday rolled out an ambitious climate-change website and vowed to tap into the federal government's vast trove of weather data to better educate Americans — but critics say the effort is little more than fear-mongering and represents a waste of taxpayer money.
The site, climate.data.gov, will house information from across the federal government. In its first phase, the site will focus on rising sea levels and coastal flooding.
Ultimately, it will include data on how climate change affects food supplies, public health, infrastructure, energy resources and other areas. The Obama administration also has partnered with private companies such as Google to make the information available through apps and other tools.
When all its parts are fully functional, the data hub is designed to allow users to see the effects of climate change in their specific area.
But critics say that by honing in on the consequences of climate change, the White House is doing little other than scaring Americans in the hope the public will support crackdowns on power plants and other, similar measures.
"The administration's new climate-change website will further bolster its fear-inducing vision of the future, which sounds more and more like a scene out of a Hollywood movie," said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president of communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. "The president continues his misguided climate pursuit despite communities across America living in real-life fear every day, including families concerned about putting food on their tables and businesses unable to make payroll because of rising energy costs due to EPA regulations."
The initiative is President Obama's latest move to confront climate change, an issue he's vowed to make a priority during his second term. The president already has proposed a $1 billion "climate resilience fund" to improve the nation's infrastructure so it can withstand more severe storms and other byproducts of a warming planet.
The administration has created "climate hubs" across the country, connecting farmers with government agencies, leading universities and others to prepare for climate change-induced disasters.
In the administration's most serious steps, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun to crack down on carbon emissions from power plants and has instituted new fuel-efficiency rules for automobiles.
The effort announced Wednesday contains no new regulation and is more about education.
"Every citizen will be affected by climate change — and all of us must work together to make our communities stronger and more resilient to its impacts," John Podesta, a top adviser to the president, and John Holdren, director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology policy, said in a joint statement.
"By taking the enormous data sets regularly collected by [federal agencies such as NASA] and applying the ingenuity, creativity and expertise of technologists and entrepreneurs, the Climate Data Initiative will help create easy-to-use tools for regional planners, farmers, hospitals and businesses across the country — and empower America's communities to prepare themselves for the future," they said.
In addition to the website launch, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced an "innovation challenge," tasking applicants with developing data-driven simulations showcasing the vulnerability of their communities to rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.
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