Why do we need a data-driven approach to fight climate change? How can data-driven techniques navigate the climate fight in a better way?

Each year, science progresses to understand the importance of biodiversity and nature for our planet’s survival. At the exact same time, humans are exploiting the planet’s resources beyond its regenerative capacity, altering its functional mechanisms. In 1988, a NASA scientist warned the US Senate and the world about rising temperatures due to human activities. Since then, there have been numerous summits by world leaders to address the dangers of global warming and climate change. 1992 Rio Earth Summit, 1997 Kyoto protocol, 2015 Paris agreement… Little or insufficient progress has been achieved to actually solve it, despite numerous acknowledgements of the urgency and seriousness of the problem. Rising carbon emissions despite international efforts is a clear indication of this failure.

People's climate march via Climate Reality Project

Unknown genius says it all: “To measure is to know.”

One of the underlying reasons for this failure is the discrepancy between climate science, political will and public awareness on climate action. Self-interested climate deniers are exploiting the enduring miscommunication between scientists and the public. There is a need to change the notion. An imperious need.

The amount of data and climate science research existing out there is not fully tapped to drive global collaborative efforts against climate change. Science-based targets and technology-based approaches are necessary more than ever for businesses, governments and the civil society to effectively tackle this global crisis. Implementing machine learning predictive algorithmic techniques on existing climate change data to address pertinent problems is not only unique but an instrumental step in solving the climate crisis.

Datasets, indexes and climate action are friends

Plan A is a data-driven action platform in the fight against climate change. We channel funds to grassroots environmental projects, community initiatives, disaster relief projects and innovative solutions, which address climate change. We work with thousands of data lines associated with the climate change topic in its various dimensions.

We analyse and combine publicly available data, gathered from various types of national and institutional indices and research studies to explore unique insights that can outline and prioritise the most effective climate action projects. We focus on the datasets that cover overarching climate topics, defined under Plan A Themes (Wildlife, Oceans, Forests, Sustainable Living, Sustainable Energy, Waste Management). Datasets that are in the form of an index (combination of various indicators) are our prime choice.

A satellite over the globally warmed world

We gather publicly-available datasets from the ground and above it.

The data we use includes Environmental Performance Index, Sustainable Development Goals Index, Climate Vulnerability and Readiness Index, World Risk Report Index, Ecological Footprint, Climate Change Performance Index, World Bank Development Indicators, World Bank Climate Change or Energy and Environment Indicators. This allows us to derive priority countries, within those countries, priority issues and sub-themes of climate change.

Predictive algorithms versus climate change

Plan A is working on using predictive algorithms on climate change and sustainability to create an efficient, differentiated and adapted approach to the current climate crisis. We then map organisations, communities and local initiatives that fight targeted climate issues in places in most urgent need of support. Predictive analytics techniques offer a fresh lens to better isolate climate change consequences specific to a region, country or sector. Historically, businesses used such techniques to predict and target, for instance, consumer behaviour or inventory management. Similar data-driven approaches are used in sectors such as forest or waste management.

However, these techniques aren’t fully exploited to address the global problem of climate change through local solutions. Publicly available data provide consolidated information on a wide range of sectors that concern climate change. Predictive algorithms create a new outlook on all these intertwined issues. By successfully assessing the challenges and solutions facing them, it becomes possible to support the right projects and initiatives targeting both climate mitigation and adaptation. 

One of Plan A’s objectives is to leverage the existing ocean of data and mechanisms that have been left mostly untouched to open up a new compelling way of addressing climate change for all able-bodied stakeholders. Such methods not only address the challenges that NGOs and corporates face in their goal to have a maximal impact but also bridge the gap between corporates and non-profits that have overlapping sustainable objectives.

Meet the Plan A Index

Plan A is currently prototyping an interactive tool that encompasses various analytical and descriptive results, derived by using machine learning based predictive algorithms. Such results can be used by individuals, businesses, governments and the entire civil society to identify and understand different regional climate impacts and corresponding local solutions. This tool also establishes and visualises correlations among the 6 themes of climate change Plan A works on. This way, any user can connect the different challenges posed by climate change and discover the highest impact projects that will address them locally or regionally.

Individuals, as well as Non-profits, can utilize the tool to understand the regional context of climate change and challenges and thereby develop innovative, community projects that offer solutions. The interactive tool also provides insights into present and future disruptions caused by climate events. Local elements of adaptation and mitigation, climate data and long-term trends, among other factors, are compounded to help businesses proactively adapt their operations and supply chains based on the insights provided.

This not only helps the businesses to ensure lasting profits but also provide an opportunity to reduce their ecological footprint. Using this tool, businesses will have the opportunity to identify and support the projects related to their business activities and associated mitigation needs. Finally, governments can have a birds-eye-view of various local projects happening in countries and around the world and improve regional (and international) policies to further support and amplify both climate- mitigation and adaptation projects.

This article was written by Plan A’s Head of data Vamsi Akuraju. Read all about him in his Climate Hero profile on the academy. Let’s not forget our other data scientists Taka and Paul, working the spreadsheets like the butterfly rides the wind.