Using Open Data to Fight Pollution


In China, severe outdoor air pollution has grounded flights, closed highways, dampened tourist visits, and forced international companies to entice employees with “pollution pay”. The World Health Organization estimates that almost 3 million people died from air pollution in Asia in 2012. The situation is so bad that the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences has said that Beijing is almost "uninhabitable for human beings".

Starting in 2014, China began requiring 15,000 factories to report emissions in real time. Shortly after the data started flowing, a savvy environmental organization worked with developers to display the data through a user-friendly mobile application. Now Chinese citizens can hold polluters—many of whom are disregarding environmental laws—accountable in a way they weren’t able to before.

One of the reasons polluters go unchallenged is that they can be difficult to track. But with new mobile technology and better monitoring systems, developers are uncovering the pervasiveness of the pollution and its impacts all around us. While the US may not have the levels of pollution found in China, the impacts of dirty energy are still significant.

Here are the top 5 web and mobile tools for learning about pollution and energy in the US:


U.S. Energy Mapping System from EIA

How many coal plants are operating in your state? Where are most of the country’s solar plants and wind farms? Is our nation’s network of pipelines and nuclear plants vulnerable to sea level rise? With this map from the US Energy Information Administration, it’s easy to find out.


EPA Power Profiler

When it comes to air pollution, how does your region compare to the rest of the US? Enter your zip code into this tool and you’ll learn the energy mix of your electricity and how much Sulpher Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide and other pollutants are emitted in your area.


American Lung Association State of the Air App

Get real-time information on local air quality conditions with this free mobile application that draws on EPA data. Users simply enter their zip code or use the geo-locator functionality to get ozone and particle pollution information, and alerts for low air quality conditions. The app also includes health advice for those with illnesses like asthma and diabetes.


Climate Central’s Surging Seas

Greenhouse gas emissions are intensifying coastal floods around the world and in the US, seas are rising along the East Coast four times faster than the global average. Want to know where the flood risk is in your community? Use this map from Climate Central to find which parts of your community are in harm’s way.

  Surging Climate Change Portal

Launched in March, 2014, this portal pulls federal datasets together to provide a clearer picture of climate impacts. The White House is working with technology companies like Google and Microsoft and nonprofits to release the data in a user-friendly formats, like these maps on hurricane risks.



More information:

US Energy Mapping System Shows Infrastructure in Extreme Weather’s Path, Huffington Post

White House Brings Together Big Data & Climate Change, Climate Central


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