The Social Value of Hurricane Forecasts

Paper by Renato Molina & Ivan Rudik: “What is the impact and value of hurricane forecasts? We study this question using newly-collected forecast data for major US hurricanes since 2005. We find higher wind speed forecasts increase pre-landfall protective spending, but erroneous under-forecasts increase post-landfall damage and rebuilding expenditures. Our main contribution is a new theoretically-grounded approach for estimating the marginal value of forecast improvements. We find that the average annual improvement reduced total per-hurricane costs, inclusive of unobserved protective spending, by $700,000 per county. Improvements since 2007 reduced costs by 19%, averaging $5 billion per hurricane. This exceeds the annual budget for all federal weather forecasting…(More)”.

Green Light

Google Research: “Road transportation is responsible for a significant amount of global and urban greenhouse gas emissions. It is especially problematic at city intersections where pollution can be 29 times higher than on open roads.  At intersections, half of these emissions come from traffic accelerating after stopping. While some amount of stop-and-go traffic is unavoidable, part of it is preventable through the optimization of traffic light timing configurations. To improve traffic light timing, cities need to either install costly hardware or run manual vehicle counts; both of these solutions are expensive and don’t provide all the necessary information. 

Green Light uses AI and Google Maps driving trends, with one of the strongest understandings of global road networks, to model traffic patterns and build intelligent recommendations for city traffic engineers to optimize traffic flow. Early numbers indicate a potential for up to 30% reduction in stops and 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (1). By optimizing each intersection, and coordinating between adjacent intersections, we can create waves of green lights and help cities further reduce stop-and-go traffic. Green Light is now live in 70 intersections in 12 cities, 4 continents, from Haifa, Israel to Bangalore, India to Hamburg, Germany – and in these intersections we are able to save fuel and lower emissions for up to 30M car rides monthly. Green Light reflects Google Research’s commitment to use AI to address climate change and improve millions of lives in cities around the world…(More)”

21st Century technology can boost Africa’s contribution to global biodiversity data

Article by Wiida Fourie-Basson: “In spring in the Southern hemisphere, the natural world is on full throttle: “Flowers are blooming, insects are emerging, birds are singing, and reptiles are coming out of their winter hibernation,” wrote Pete Crowcroft, known as @possumpete on the citizen science app, iNaturalist.

Yet, despite this annual bursting forth of life, a 2023 preprint puts the continent’s contribution to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility at a dismal 2.69%, with huge disparities between African countries…

Since its formation in 2008 as part of a graduate project at the University of California, the iNaturalist platform has evolved into one of the world’s most popular biodiversity observation platforms. Anyone, anywhere in the world, with a smartphone can download the app and start posting images and descriptions of their observations, and a large community of identifiers helps to confirm the species’ observation and label it as “research grade”.

Rebelo says iNaturalist is now used on a massive scale: “During the 2023 City Nature Challenge almost 67,000 people made nearly two million observations over four days – that is, five observations each second. Another 22,000 specialists identified 60 thousand species of animals, plants, and fungi. Few citizen science platforms are as powerful and efficient.”..

Andra Waagmeester, data scientist at Micelio in Belgium and a Wikimentor, believes the dearth of biodiversity data from Africa can be solved by combining the iNaturalist and Wikipedia communities: “They are independent communities, but there is substantial overlap between them. By overlaying the two data sets and leveraging the semantic web, we have the means to deal with the challenge.”

The need for biodiversity-related knowledge from Africa was first acknowledged by the Wiki-community during the 2018 Wikimania conference in Cape Town. The Wiki Biodiversity Project has since grown into an active global community that leverages crowd-sourced knowledge from platforms like iNaturalist…(More)”.

How Open-Source Software Empowers Nonprofits And The Global Communities They Serve

Article by Steve Francis: “One particular area where this challenge is evident is climate. Thousands of nonprofits strive to address the effects of a changing climate and its impact on communities worldwide. Headlines often go to big organizations doing high-profile work (planting trees, for instance) in well-known places. Money goes to large-scale commercial agriculture or new technologies — because that’s where profits are most easily made. But thousands of other communities of small farmers that aren’t as visible or profitable need help too. These communities come together to tackle a number of interrelated problems: climate, soil health and productivity, biodiversity and human health and welfare. They envision a more sustainable future.

The reality is that software is crafted to meet market needs, but these communities don’t represent a profitable market. Every major industry has its own software applications and a network of consultants to tune that software for optimal performance. A farm cooperative in less developed parts of the world seeking to maximize value for sustainably harvested produce faces very different challenges than do any of these business users. Often they need to collect and manipulate data in the field, on whatever mobile device they have, with little or no connectivity. Modern software systems are rarely designed to operate in such an environment; they assume the latest devices and continuous connectivity…(More)”.

Data governance for the ecological transition: An infrastructure perspective

Article by Charlotte Ducuing: “This article uses infrastructure studies to provide a critical analysis of the European Union’s (EU) ambition to regulate data for the ecological transition. The EU’s regulatory project implicitly qualifies data as an infrastructure for a better economy and society. However, current EU law does not draw all the logical consequences derived from this qualification of data as infrastructure, which is one main reason why EU data legislation for the ecological transition may not deliver on its high political expectations. The ecological transition does not play a significant normative role in EU data legislation and is largely overlooked in the data governance literature. By drawing inferences from the qualification of data as an infrastructure more consistently, the article opens avenues for data governance that centre the ecological transition as a normative goal…(More)”.

Using Artificial Intelligence to Map the Earth’s Forests

Article from Meta and World Resources Institute: “Forests harbor most of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity and play a critical role in the uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Ecosystem services provided by forests underpin an essential defense against the climate and biodiversity crises. However, critical gaps remain in the scientific understanding of the structure and extent of global forests. Because the vast majority of existing data on global forests is derived from low to medium resolution satellite imagery (10 or 30 meters), there is a gap in the scientific understanding of dynamic and more dispersed forest systems such as agroforestry, drylands forests, and alpine forests, which together constitute more than a third of the world’s forests. 

Today, Meta and World Resources Institute are launching a global map of tree canopy height at a 1-meter resolution, allowing the detection of single trees at a global scale. In an effort to advance open source forest monitoring, all canopy height data and artificial intelligence models are free and publicly available…(More)”.

The Need for Climate Data Stewardship: 10 Tensions and Reflections regarding Climate Data Governance

Paper by Stefaan Verhulst: “Datafication — the increase in data generation and advancements in data analysis — offers new possibilities for governing and tackling worldwide challenges such as climate change. However, employing new data sources in policymaking carries various risks, such as exacerbating inequalities, introducing biases, and creating gaps in access. This paper articulates ten core tensions related to climate data and its implications for climate data governance, ranging from the diversity of data sources and stakeholders to issues of quality, access, and the balancing act between local needs and global imperatives. Through examining these tensions, the article advocates for a paradigm shift towards multi-stakeholder governance, data stewardship, and equitable data practices to harness the potential of climate data for public good. It underscores the critical role of data stewards in navigating these challenges, fostering a responsible data ecology, and ultimately contributing to a more sustainable and just approach to climate action and broader social issues…(More)”.


About: “Twenty-first century collective intelligence- combining people’s knowledge and skills, new forms of data and increasingly, technology – has the untapped potential to transform the way we understand and act on climate change.

Collective intelligence for climate action in the Global South takes many forms: from crowdsourcing of indigenous knowledge to preserve biodiversity to participatory monitoring of extreme heat and farmer experiments adapting crops to weather variability.

This research analyzes 100+ climate case studies across 45 countries that tap into people’s participation and use new forms of data. This research illustrates the potential that exists in communities everywhere to contribute to climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. It also aims to shine a light on practical ways in which these initiatives could be designed and further developed so this potential can be fully unleashed…(More)”.

Central banks use AI to assess climate-related risks

Article by Huw Jones: “Central bankers said on Tuesday they have broken new ground by using artificial intelligence to collect data for assessing climate-related financial risks, just as the volume of disclosures from banks and other companies is set to rise.

The Bank for International Settlements, a forum for central banks, the Bank of Spain, Germany’s Bundesbank and the European Central Bank said their experimental Gaia AI project was used to analyse company disclosures on carbon emissions, green bond issuance and voluntary net-zero commitments.

Regulators of banks, insurers and asset managers need high-quality data to assess the impact of climate-change on financial institutions. However, the absence of a single reporting standard confronts them with a patchwork of public information spread across text, tables and footnotes in annual reports.

Gaia was able to overcome differences in definitions and disclosure frameworks across jurisdictions to offer much-needed transparency, and make it easier to compare indicators on climate-related financial risks, the central banks said in a joint statement.

Despite variations in how the same data is reported by companies, Gaia focuses on the definition of each indicator, rather than how the data is labelled.

Furthermore, with the traditional approach, each additional key performance indicator, or KPI, and each new institution requires the analyst to either search for the information in public corporate reports or contact the institution for information…(More)”.

Riders in the smog

Article by Zuha Siddiqui, Samriddhi Sakuna and Faisal Mahmud: “…To better understand air quality exposure among gig workers in South Asia, Rest of World gave three gig workers — one each in Lahore, New Delhi, and Dhaka — air quality monitors to wear throughout a regular shift in January. The Atmotube Pro monitors continually tracked their exposure to carcinogenic pollutants — specifically PM1, PM2.5, and PM10 (different sizes of particulate matter), and volatile organic compounds such as benzene and formaldehyde.

The data revealed that all three workers were routinely exposed to hazardous levels of pollutants. For PM2.5, referring to particulates that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less — which have been linked to health risks including heart attacks and strokes — all riders were consistently logging exposure levels more than 10 times the World Health Organization’s recommended daily average of 15 micrograms per cubic meter. Manu Sharma, in New Delhi, recorded the highest PM2.5 level of the three riders, hitting 468.3 micrograms per cubic meter around 6 p.m. Lahore was a close second, with Iqbal recording 464.2 micrograms per cubic meter around the same time.

Alongside tracking specific pollutants, the Atmotube Pro gives an overall real-time air quality score (AQS) from 0–100, with zero being the most severely polluted, and 100 being the cleanest. According to Atmo, the company that makes the Atmotube monitors, a reading of 0–20 should be considered a health alert, under which conditions “everyone should avoid all outdoor exertion.” But the three gig workers found their monitors consistently displayed the lowest possible score…(More)”.