July 28, 2023

Understanding the local impacts of climate change in South Asia is limited, hindering effective policy planning for mitigation and adaptation.

In South Asia, a region recognized as the epicenter for climate change and home to nearly two billion people, policymakers often lack the detailed data to understand how climate changes impact communities and livelihoods on a regional scale. This is despite the availability of global models that predict sea level rises, temperature shifts, and changes in rainfall patterns. While novel data streams, such as human mobility data, satellite imagery, electronic health records, and population health databases show promise, they also introduce significant privacy and methodological concerns. Additionally, there’s a prevailing gap in the local capacity to readily integrate this data into decision-making.

While the procurement of data can pose challenges, especially in areas with limited resources and infrastructure, the growing accessibility of data and analytic tools assists in crafting enhanced policies bolstering climate action. The integration of these tools and data sources has streamlined decision-making processes by embedding solid evidence, enabling even resource-constrained entities to capitalize on this public data through new tools tailored for policymakers and researchers.

Recognizing these complexities, CrisisReady and the Lakshmi Mittal Family South Asia Institute at Harvard University initiated a project called Climateverse. The project aims to leverage the existing yet siloed climate data in South Asia.

Climateverse offers processed, organized, and easy-to-use data for researchers and policymakers to simplify the data discovery process, making it more relevant and guiding users on its proper utilization.

Building a Data Ecosystem with Climateverse: Enhancing Regional Decision-Making

Climateverse aims to address challenges in data procurement, processing, and analysis, aiming to build a regional data ecosystem essential for evidence-based policy-making. By incorporating diverse data types, this ecosystem provides an all-encompassing view of regional issues, enhancing the decision-making process.

The project draws on the extensive research conducted by the CrisisReady team at Harvard University. Our team has studied the complexities of data collection, processing, and utilization, particularly in South Asia. We have also explored aspects such as data accessibility, reliability, and accuracy to devise a framework that facilitates data gathering and processing.

Using this framework as a foundation, Climateverse intends to apply these findings to enhance data collection methods, reduce inconsistencies, and increase data applicability.

Climateverse will offer users a uniform way of organizing public datasets and show examples of the best ways to share data while also acknowledging potential risks. The system also provides guidance on how data creators can make their data easier to use and understand. This includes explaining the right context for their work and offering simple ways to interact with the data. We hope these suggestions, along with the growing collection of data in Climateverse, will spark broader conversations on how to improve the use and handling of climate data.

Video Demonstration of the Tool

Climateverse from A Y on Vimeo.

Project Workstreams

Stakeholder Inputs

Undertake a comprehensive qualitative review of climate-related data challenges, opportunities and gaps in India through interviews with key stakeholders across government, academia, and the private sector that either have access to the data, the capacity to gather and conduct research on these data or will productively use the data.

Status: Complete

Tagged Index

Create a comprehensive index of international and domestic datasets required for research and policy making in India (and Bangladesh) to assess risk and vulnerability. For each dataset, we will ascertain data provenance, accessibility, reliability, transportability, security, and interoperability. We will also identify the ethical, regulatory and technical barriers to accessing these datasets, and making them more readily available.

Status: Ongoing

Climateverse Repository

Build a searchable repository of curated datasets accessed through a user-friendly interface that will combine Large Language Models (LLM) and Generative AI to allow users to identify datasets needed to answer their research or policy questions. Responses will be sought by combining an LLM’s general knowledge of the world with the curated Climateverse Repository where data are tagged with the attributes described above.

Status: Ongoing


Through demonstrations of existing use-cases on the application of novel data streams in disaster response, clinical medicine, infectious disease modeling and population movement, we will work with policy makers and researchers to develop new prototypes using Climateverse for addressing questions related to climate adaptation.

Status: Upcoming

Training on Digital Public Goods

We will conduct training programs in partnership with local academic organizations focused on Climateverse data management, application of differential privacy, and accessing these data. This will include informational sessions for technology companies to encourage open access to anonymized data in keeping with India’s promotion of “Digital Public Goods”.

Status: Upcoming

In South Asia, as is the case in many other regions, the “data-methods readiness” pipeline presents significant challenges. This pipeline involves stages from data collection, analysis, to its eventual application in policy making and problem-solving. Many factors, including but not limited to, data accuracy, accessibility, interoperability, and comprehensibility, contribute to these challenges.

Our Climateverse project, which focuses on “data readiness,” is designed to pave the way for seeking further funding. “Data readiness” refers to the extent to which data is available, accessible, and prepared for use in decision-making. This involves improving the quality, depth, and usability of data, as well as addressing barriers to data sharing and cooperation. This work is a crucial step in ensuring that data can be effectively utilized in policy making and implementation processes.

Our aim is to secure additional funding to develop a multi-year project that will continually enhance and assess data-driven decision-making processes, specifically those concerning climate-related adaptation in India and the broader South Asia region. This sustained effort is aimed at helping local governments, organizations, and communities make more informed decisions about how to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

While there are significant challenges in South Asia concerning the “data-methods readiness” pipeline, our focus on “data readiness” represents a crucial and necessary first step towards building a more data-informed approach to climate change adaptation in the region.

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