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Obama's Climate Data Initiative: Congress gridlocked? Empower the public. (+video)

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(Read caption) The White House needs a few good data scientists to help its climate change campaign. Instead of creating all of the doomsday scenarios itself, the White House is opening up government data so that researchers can create their own simulations and also help the cities prepare for the impacts.

With Congress shunning legislation to curb global warming, President Obama on Wednesday launched a new online resource to help businesses, citizens, and communities plan for climate change.

The Climate Data Initiative aims to ease access to federal data on climate issues including rises in sea level, storm surges, extreme heat, and drought. The hope is that Americans will use the data to create better public and private preparedness plans.

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The website is a work in progress, with some components still under construction. For example, a click on the "coastal flooding" tab yields a description of what will be available, though there is no indication when the data will go live.

The Climate Data Initiative marks a next step on Mr. Obama's pledge last June to address climate change. The president and Democratic leaders have highlighted the issue several times in recent months, despite congressional opposition from most Republicans and red-state Democrats.

"Climate change is a fact," Obama said during his 2014 State of the Union Address. "And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say, 'Yes, we did.' "

In June, Obama unveiled a plan to cut carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, with or without congressional support. He directed the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen air emissions regulations under the Clean Air Act, a move that Republican leaders have called an overstepping of executive authority.

“I think it’s unfortunate, I think it’s divisive and quite frankly, borderline unconstitutional on many of those issues,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida told Politico, following the president’s address. “I understand the [legislative] process takes long and can be frustrating, but I think it truly undermines the republic.”

Earlier this month, 28 Senate Democrats and two Independents held an all night “talkathon” on climate change in an attempt to “wake up” Congress and the nation on the issue.

With little chance of congressional compromise in sight, the president appears to be appealing instead to the American public.

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While nearly two-thirds of Americans believe global warming is happening, just under half of the country believes that humans are to blame, according to a survey conducted by researchers at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the international nonprofit organization and publisher of Science magazine, has also shifted its education efforts from policymakers to American citizens.

AAAS launched its own website this week in an effort to bring the scientific evidence for climate change directly to the people.

While the government portal is a text-heavy catalog of federal databases, AAAS’s What We Know report is a visually rich, multimedia product that makes the case for climate change with video interviews.

“Climate change is not about the polar bears. It’s about your kids and my kids. It’s about the price of Cheerios and cereal,” says Marshall Shepherd, a geography professor at the University of Georgia and former president of the American Meteorological Society, in one of the interviews. “It’s not a political issue. It’s an issue of human beings, their kids, and their future.”

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