Introducing Resource Watch: Data for a Sustainable Future

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13 April 2018

The challenges we face as stewards of Earth are staggering and often unprecedented. Extreme weather events—many of them harbingers of a changing climate—are hammering communities around the world, leaving devastation that costs billions of dollars. Loss of the planet’s tree cover reached a new high in 2016. The global population is set to grow by at least 2 billion people by mid-century—and each of them, like us, will be wondering what’s for dinner.

These are complex issues playing out at a scale as great as Earth itself, with stakes to match. Trusted and timely data can help us make better sense of them. But few data sources are open and curated in a way that supports the kind of urgent, informed decision-making these challenges demand.

It’s in this spirit that we present Resource Watch, an open-data solution to help people everywhere monitor the planet’s pulse, uncover insights and take action for a more sustainable future. Resource Watch gives you the tools to explore issues you care about, dive deep into credible data and monitor a range of issues—from earthquakes to local air quality—in near-real time.

Browse more than 200 global data sets on topics ranging from food insecurity to electricity access, and overlay them to find previously unexplored connections. Keep an eye on areas of concern all over the world with automated email alerts showing forest change, fires and human conflicts. Or visit our topic pages for the latest information on water issues, climate change and more.

Here are five ways you can start using Resource Watch right now:

1. See where natural resource issues collide.

Overlaying related data sets can reveal places in the world where critical issues intersect. For example: Compare a map of probabilities of urban expansion by 2030 with one showing areas of key endangered species’ habitats, and you can see potential conflicts between nature and rapidly growing cities.

The Morelos False Brook Salamander has been on the endangered species list since 2004. The once-abundant animal has disappeared from parts of its range in the face of urbanization and land-clearing for agriculture. Now it’s found in just one place south of Mexico City, in a critical habitat zone it shares with three other endangered species. Projections of future growth, displayed on the interactive map above, show that urban expansion is likely to push deep into this area over the coming decade.

The threat isn’t limited to biodiversity. The southern edge of Mexico City is home to the Water Forest, an ecologically diverse region that millions of people depend on for ecosystem services. This projection suggests urban growth could overtake a stretch of this forest, which supplies 75 percent of Mexico City’s water, all the water for the nearby city of Cuernavaca, and other critical functions such as erosion control, carbon sinks and buffers for air pollution. The well-being of local communities is inextricably bound to the health of the Water Forest.

Explore this map further, along with other spots on the globe.

2. Get near-real time information on the state of the planet.

Our Planet Pulse section provides a snapshot of our changing world. It visualizes fires, floods, landslides, air quality and other issues in near-real time using data gathered by satellites and ground sensors.

For example, air pollution comes in many forms, from dust to soot to wildfire smoke. The smallest particles are known as fine inhalable particles, or PM2.5. (They’re less than 2.5 microns in diameter—1/30th the width of a human hair.) Long-term exposure to PM2.5 has been linked to a range of heart and lung problems, including higher mortality rates.

OpenAQ, a Resource Watch partner, tracks air quality in more than 8,000 locations across 64 countries. Zoom in on the map below to check the air quality in your area over the last 24 hours.

3. Set alerts to track floods, fires and more.

Use alerts to monitor important events unfolding across the world and in your own backyard. Resource Watch can notify you by email when floods, major fires or other threats strike a country you’re monitoring. Advanced users can upload their own areas of interest—from cities to national parks—to receive regular updates on a more local level.

4. Build your own data dashboard to track climate change—or anything else.

Rising seas threaten coastal communities and infrastructure by amplifying flooding and storm surges. Global temperatures have exceeded annual averages for more than three years straight. Stabilizing Earth’s climate will be the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Custom dashboards can help you track global climate threats and progress toward solutions by assembling all the data that matter to you in one place.

Alternatively, create a dashboard to monitor the state of the world’s forests, oceans or cities—or a combination of all three. Looking for some inspiration? Visit our topic pages for some ideas.

 

Originally published by Resource Watch