Making Climate Data Actionable for Local Communities

AT&T Blog Team
December 7, 2022
Community Impact

Making Climate Data Actionable for Local Communities

Across the nation, communities are looking for ways to ensure that the vital infrastructure and networks that connect our neighborhoods, towns and cities, will be resilient against extreme weather events.

Now, the task ahead of us is to help leaders see how they can strengthen and upgrade their critical infrastructure – including the bridges we take to work, the schools where our kids learn, and the pipes that carry our water. To build durable infrastructure, communities first need to know exactly what climate challenges they’re up against.

We believe that the challenges in front of us need public/private collaboration to drive innovative and effective solutions. From businesses to local leaders to government officials, all of us must work together to discover new strategies that will reshape what it means to build resilient communities – because vulnerable infrastructure means vulnerable communities.

As part of our company’s work to address climate change, we’re eager to help our cities and towns get smarter and plan more strategically for the future. We teamed up with the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to develop the Climate Risk and Resilience Portal (ClimRR).

ClimRR serves as a free, publicly accessible portal, providing localized data solutions to empower policymakers, governments and community leaders to better understand future climate threats, examine infrastructure design, and develop plans.

The tool allows users to map local climate conditions thirty years into the future to see how certain weather hazards may impact specific populations and areas down to the individual property level. The platform is designed for users like city planners and local leaders so that they can better analyze the weaknesses in their infrastructure.

  • Initial hazards included in ClimRR are temperature, rainfall, wind and drought conditions.
  • Additional risks, such as wildfire and flooding, will be added in the coming months.

The work comes out of our own company efforts to be more resilient. Four years ago, we turned to Argonne National Laboratory to develop a Climate Change Analysis Tool (CCAT) that anticipates potential impacts of climate change on our company infrastructure and operations in the future.

Seeing how valuable the tool was to our own company planning, we worked with Argonne and FEMA to help inform the buildout of a version that would be free to emergency managers and town leaders.

“Our world is interdependent. We want other organizations and communities to see where they’re potentially vulnerable to climate change and take steps to become resilient. That’s why we’re excited to make our data publicly available and to work closely with FEMA and Argonne to get it into the right hands.”

Charlene Lake, Chief Sustainability Officer and SVP-Corporate Social Responsibility at AT&T

Putting the Climate Data to Work

The effects of climate change will impact every community uniquely. The ClimRR tool allows state and local leaders to easily digest crucial information and make the most informed decision for their community.

When looking to build a hospital, school or any new project, planners will be able to use the tool to design infrastructure that can better withstand climate threats in their area. This increased knowledge – from future temperature changes, precipitation and wind levels to risk of wildfire, flooding and drought events – will empower communities to invest in solutions taking into account more information.

Research has shown that in disadvantaged neighborhoods, the infrastructure is often worse, which puts those neighborhoods at greater risk during severe weather events. In many cities, officials are already creating heat emergency plans to cope with higher temperatures. These plans are instrumental in alerting officials on how to react – whether that’s distributing water or extending hours at community centers. ClimRR can help refine these plans and allow for communities to identify longer term solutions to prepare.

In Philadelphia, for example – which experiences the heat island effect caused by dense populations and human activity – city planners can use ClimRR to predict future heat waves and identify the location of residents over the age of 65 and Medicare recipients with power dependent devices. With this data, planners can pinpoint what areas in their community may benefit from shade canopies, cold drinking water stations, cooling centers and even community pools.

The information will serve local leaders outside of cities too.

Tribal communities face their own unique climate change impacts, such changes in rainfall and temperature that can have a drastic impact on crop yield, medicinal plant growth and the introduction of invasive species – and all of which can have negative economic and health effects on the community.

With ClimRR, Tribal leaders can analyze projections based on seasonal and extreme temperatures to help communities plan and to sound the alarm to local, state and federal government on climate risks their communities may be exposed to.

One Piece of a Larger Puzzle

It’s our hope that all these tools will drive candid conversations about vulnerabilities within our communities. Providing an eye into the future, we can shore up our defenses and build more resilient cities so when the next extreme weather event comes – we’ll be ready.