White House unwraps climate change info portal

With a skeptical public and an uninterested Congress, the White House has added climate-change information to the climate.data.gov website. The portal could be more useful for the media, businesses, and state and local governments, say experts.

WASHINGTON: The White House is promoting awareness of climate change by launching a pilot program on the climate.data.gov website.

The page went live on Wednesday. It includes resources for understanding and preparing for events such as coastal flooding and rising sea levels. A statement posted on the site explained that the portal is "still a prototype," and that the White House is crowdsourcing information to expand it.

Ann Davison, managing partner at Vox Global, said she believes the site is less an outlet for the average Joe than for state and local governments and the business community.

"Bottom line, this is the latest in the president’s pledge to use the full power of the executive branch to forward his agenda," she said. "Congress is not interested in this issue, nor are the American people, honestly."

Robert Mathias, regional CEO for North America at Ogilvy Public Relations, said he sees the site as the Obama administration’s way of making the government accessible and bringing it to the people. It is something the president has said he would do using various social channels, he noted.

On the other hand, climate.data.gov might become a go-to resource for media, businesses, and think tanks, Mathias explained.

Davison added that when climate change is a "pocketbook issue," it will become a national topic. Unless there is a widespread environmental event – a la the film The Day After Tomorrow – most of the nation won’t feel the impetus to invest in advocating for change.

Yet she noted that some areas of the US are starting to feel the pinch, as insurance rates go up for disaster protection.

Mathias similarly noted the impact of the pocketbook – as harsh weather continues to affect people economically, they will become gradually more cognizant of climate change. He added that it will take "courageous politicians" willing to talk about the topic and push the agenda, noting that some members of Congress spent the night talking about how to act on climate change a few weeks ago outside of a legislative session.

"It’s moving forward in the American conscience whether or not we’re aware of it yet," said Mathias, who added that the White House’s effort is a fairly low-cost tool that can further punctuate the point.

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