2 Nov

First Global Stocktake Climate Datathon Produces Data Visualizations, Solutions at COP 27


The Data Driven Enviro-Lab (DDL) and the OpenEarth Foundation joined forces to host the first Global Stocktake Climate Datathon in the months leading up to COP 27. More than 100 individuals from 30 countries spanning six continents participated in the Datathon. Last Friday, a panel of expert judges selected two winning projects to present their submissions at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt on Nov. 10’s Science Day, which highlights the role of science in climate policy and international efforts to address climate change.

The asynchronous, three-week event launched in late September asked participants to use public data to present solutions to climate data challenges, or prompts, posed by researchers and policymakers from non-profit organizations and academic institutions. These challenges were all related to the Global Stocktake - an effort to evaluate progress towards the Paris Agreement’s mitigation, adaptation, and climate financing goals.

The goal of this event was to invite data scientists and climate researchers to develop clever submissions and build capacity for the Global Stocktake, a process facilitated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to measure collective progress towards the commitments made in the Paris Climate Agreement. The Global Stocktake will conclude in November 2023, and the hope is that states that are parties to the Paris Agreement will use data from the Stocktake to inform their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), formal commitments and targets for emissions reductions.

“In the Global Stocktake, we need to assess collective progress on many areas of climate action - mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity building, loss and damage, and response measures,” said Harald Winkler, co-facilitator of the Global Stocktake and professor at the University of Cape Town. “So, we need to enhance data to understand collective progress and how we can bridge the remaining gaps. It is particularly important to visualize opportunities to take more climate action, and to visualize creative ways of overcoming challenges.”

The Datathon supported the stocktaking process by asking participants to provide aggregated insights on collective progress, identify and visualize this progress as well as areas for improvement, and to make climate data more interoperable, or help datasets talk to one another efficiently so that data can be compared across state boundaries and differing data collection and reporting processes.

“The Global Stocktake is critically important because the international community has yet to live up to its commitments and climate action has yet to reflect deep transformations needed across all sectors to build a resilient future,” said Angel Hsu, founder of the Data-Driven EnviroLab and professor of public policy and environment, ecology and energy at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The prompts that participants faced ranged across sectors, countries, and climate action themes. Challenges dealt with net-zero emissions commitments, synthesizing data gathered from weather stations throughout West Africa, and harmonizing multiple climate datasets to streamline analysis and promote easier identification of trends and progress. Over a dozen organizations and academic researchers wrote and hosted prompts - including Climate TRACE, World Resources Institute, and Global Covenant of Mayors - identifying climate data stocktaking issues they encounter in their work.

Although the format of final submissions was left wide open, participants designed interactive data visualizations, developed web platforms and network maps, with the only requirement that they use publicly available datasets related to assessing our collective progress on climate action. Two winning submissions were selected to be presented at COP 27.

Team ActInsight built a tool hosted at actinsight.org in answer to the challenge presented by researchers at Radboud University and the German Development Institute – which actors are participating in which climate initiatives? On the ActInsight web app, users can easily search which actors belong to which initiatives, and the connections between actors and initiatives are visualized in a dynamic graphic. To develop this platform, the team standardized and combined many climate datasets into a model constructed by data scientists at the OpenEarth Foundation and the Data-Driven EnviroLab, and made it all publicly available.

The team is composed of Nawel Mahmoudi, a corporate lawyer by training, and Marc Fournier-Carrie, an engineer, who co-founded ValueGrid, a Dubai-based startup & AI consultancy.

Mahmoudi described the Datathon as, “a dream opportunity to apply the art and science of data-driven decisions to the critically important effort to make sense of progress the world is making towards our climate goals.”

Team Turn the Tide developed an Ocean Action Tracker to assess NDC progress to countries based on their commitment to ocean protection in response to the challenge to better understand what datasets can be used to measure ocean protection, a prompt provided by global initiative Speed and Scale. Team Turn the Tide’s web and smartphone app provides a series of visualizations to classify countries around the world according to calculated scores based on vulnerability, commitment to ocean protection, and policies and action. Their analysis found that states with the highest commitment scores are low- and middle-income countries.

The team is composed of a global team of youth climate activists and data scientists. Turn the Tide’s members are Chloe Ludden, an assistant to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change author team who is based in Berlin; David Smith, a data scientist based in Washington, D.C.; Yoko Lu, a member of the youth constituency to the UNFCCC who is based in Canada; Jeremiah Aihumeken-Okhai, a data analyst at Climate Voices for Africa who is based in Nigeria; Yogendrasingh Pawar, a consultant based in Mumbai; and Amanda Manchini, a data scientist based in New York.

Judges recognized two teams with honorable mentions. Team Yale, composed of Matthew Duyst and Abhinav Bhardwaj, graduate students at the Yale School of Environment and Department of Mathematics, created a web tool to visualize the effect of different carbon trading allowances on emissions. Team Arboretica, a start-up co-founded by James Zhang, Kaiyang Xu, and Linda Farczadi, created a digital toolkit to visualize various aspects of ocean resilience from a multitude of harmonized datasets.

Nawel Mahmoudi will represent ActInsight and Chloe Ludden will represent Turn the Tide in Egypt at COP 27.

“The datathon provided a venue for collaboration and education around the Global Stocktake through which we were able to engage participants from all over the world,” said Louisa Durkin, community manager of the Climate Action Data 2.0 community and lead organizer of the datathon. “It is really something special to have such a vehicle for global contributions and innovations to provide key materials for the stocktaking process.”

The Data-Driven EnviroLab (DDL) is an interdisciplinary and international group of researchers, scientists, programmers, and visual designers based at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and founded by Angel Hsu, PhD. DDL uses innovative data analytics to promote evidence-based approaches to problem-solving while promoting information transparency. Working with scholars and policymakers across the globe, DDL strives to strengthen environmental policy at all levels.

Learn more about DDL here.

OpenEarth Foundation is a California-based nonprofit creating and deploying open source digital systems and solutions for a thriving planet. OpenEarth harnesses three core approaches to enhance planetary resilience: emerging digital technologies, collaboration and open platforms, and systems approaches. OpenClimate, one of OpenEarth’s programs, leverages the insights from the Climate Action Data (CAD) 2.0 community.

Learn more about OpenClimate here.

Learn more about the CAD2.0 community here.

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Jul 2022

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