For years, Microsoft has been engaged in a variety of efforts to better understand and address environmental change. Earlier this year, Microsoft’s Lead Environmental Scientist Dr. Lucas Joppa was appointed to the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment. Today, we’re highlighting our support for a new effort focused on bridging the gap between climate data, available tools and resiliency planning.
Along with a number of other companies, as well as nations and non-governmental organizations around the world, Microsoft has joined the newly-announced Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP). PREP is a public-private collaboration in development to empower a data-driven approach to building climate resilience through community engagement, data accessibility and platform development. (Read the full text of the group’s joint declaration here.)
At Microsoft, we believe in the power of data and technology to create meaningful and inclusive solutions to addressing global climate change. That starts by improving access to and usability of data globally to help decision-makers in urban areas more easily assess climate risk to their cities’ residents and infrastructure and prepare for the impact of extreme weather events, such as flooding and power outages.
In the following Q&A, Josh Henretig, Senior Director of Sustainability Solutions and Partnerships at Microsoft, discusses the company’s support for PREP and its role in leveraging advances in technology—such as cloud-based services, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT)—to help improve climate resiliency in communities around the world.
The following is an interview with Josh Henretig, Senior Director of Sustainability Solutions and Partnerships for Microsoft, about the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP). As part of the Environmental Sustainability team at Microsoft, Mr. Henretig works closely with customers and partners across private, public, and nonprofit sectors to showcase the role technology plays in enabling people and organizations around the world reduce their impact on the environment.
Q: What climate-related challenges do cities currently face globally? How does data help or hinder the decision-making necessary to address those challenges?
JH (Josh Henretig): Decision-makers in urban areas are increasingly faced with local challenges stemming from climate change. Due to their population density and often aging infrastructure, cities are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of extreme weather events, such as variable rainfall, storm water runoff and excessive heat. A lack of timely, relevant and actionable data makes it difficult for cities to assess their environmental risk and develop effective solutions to improve the resilience of their communities.
The global scale of climate change means that no single actor can address these challenges alone—we need to develop partnerships and technology that will allow for a more efficient and effective flow of data and best practices from around the world. By leveraging advances in technologies such as cloud-based services, big data, and the Internet of Things, we believe it’s possible to optimize multiple sources of environmental data and envision solutions with the power and scale to profoundly improve the impact of this data on urban resiliency and risk management.
Q: What is the Partnership for Resilience and Preparedness (PREP) and what does Microsoft hope to achieve by joining?
JH: PREP seeks to harness the data revolution for climate resilience by helping stakeholders within a city access the best available information to support managing climate risks. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), World Resources Institute, U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and a network of partners, like Microsoft, have committed to work together to help communities, companies and investors use data to improve climate resilience planning.
We’re enthusiastic about joining with government and private industry partners to tap into the power of data and technology to improve urban resiliency and help address climate change. Our hope is that by making critical data both more accessible and rapidly available, we can accelerate the development of tools that harness that data to empower communities to make smarter decisions.
Q: What is Microsoft’s role? How will the company support PREP’s mission?
JH: Microsoft is supporting PREP by working with a diverse community of academic, civic, corporate and startup organizations to test and demonstrate new tools, services and business models that enable smart urban infrastructure and environmental management. We plan to do this by:
- Convening and/or participating in workshops with a diverse community of academic, civic, corporate and startup organizations to explore the gaps in existing and available data, barriers to accessibility and actionable insights, and other challenges that reduce the potential value of environmental data in the urban resiliency and risk management landscape;
- Develop cloud-based solutions that support data collection, sharing, and analysis to inform local and regional planning efforts for long-term resilience of urban infrastructure and environmental management and short-term operational decision-making;
- Contribute to research and/or best practices for data management, access and security, that enables data-driven approaches to build climate resilience;
- Provide cloud computing resources through our Azure for Research program to help researchers and scientists accelerate projects related to urban resilience and environmental management, such as this project focused on preventing flood disasters with Cortana Intelligence Suite.
We’re excited about joining PREP and the opportunities presented by this type of cross-sector collaboration. Investing in information and data as a resource will allow cities to manage climate risks more effectively and serve increasing populations more efficiently, with less waste.