Chesapeake Conservancy joins with White House, Intel on Climate Data Initiative

Annapolis, Md. — Joel Dunn, Executive Director of the Chesapeake Conservancy, joined prominent technology innovators and climate scientists at the White House today for the public launch of the Climate Data Initiative, a part of President Barack Obama’s climate change program.

Other speakers at the event included: Counselor to the President, John Podesta; ESRI CEO Jack Dangermond; Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan; Intel Global Environment Policy Director Stephen Harper; City of New Orleans Director of Enterprise Information, Denice Ross; NASA Chief Scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan; World Bank’s VP for Climate Rachel Kyte; Google Earth Engine Founder Rebecca Moore; and White House Science Advisor Dr. John Holdren.

Climate change poses new challenges for the Chesapeake ecosystem, which is already stressed by pollutants, population growth and increasing development.  With approximately 12,000 miles of coastline, nearly all of them low-lying, the Chesapeake is particularly vulnerable to sea levels that are rising at two to three times the global average rate. 

Sea level rise affects the Conservancy’s mission and signature projects, such as the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the nation’s first water-based National Trail that is the framework for the Conservancy’s conservation and public access work.

Addressing climate change resilience is a priority for the Administration and Wednesday’s event begins a series of efforts to encourage development of technology that will make government data and other data readily available to help communities, companies, and citizens understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise. 

For the past three years, the Chesapeake Conservancy’s Conservation Innovation Center (CIC) has partnered with Intel and the Digital Energy Sustainability and Solutions Campaign (DESSC) to take big data and convert it to products and services that advance the conservation of land and water in our region.  The CIC’s goal is to develop tools and techniques that produce highly targeted interventions to achieve meaningful impacts for the environment.

Similarly, with climate change, there are great data sets available that identify areas affected by sea level rise, but local governments and nonprofits have had difficulty using the information to build actionable plans that result in more resilient communities and environments.

In support of the White House Climate Data Initiative, the Conservancy will partner with Intel and the White House to put together a Chesapeake Hackathon in 2014 to pilot the application of public data related to climate change resilience.  A hackathon (or codefest) is an event where computer programmers and other professionals collaborate intensively on targeted software projects. 

Through the Chesapeake Hackathon, the partners intend to facilitate the development of “apps” and other tools to help our community better understand the potential impacts of land use decisions, and better prepare for the impacts of climate change. 

“Our intention with the Chesapeake Hackathon is to enable innovation by encouraging creativity, making information easily accessible and ramping up motivation through collaboration across the public, private, non-profit and academic sectors” Dunn said. “We want to turn data into insight and ensure that existing sea level rise projections and land-use planning objectives will culminate in communities that are more resilient to climate change.”

The Chesapeake Conservancy believes that with the right information and tools, coastal communities can more easily pursue land protection, economic development, and climate change adaptation in sync with one another.  “We are honored to be a partner with Intel and the White House on the Climate Data Initiative in this important effort.”

Contact Michael Shultz, 410-972-2470, March 19, 2014