Research, Technology & engineering, Science & environment

Better planetary management though data science

By Robert Sanders

Sol Hsiang discusses how data, analysis and computing can show us our future in a warming world, and lead us to action to mitigate the impact.

In the past, world leaders had little but magic to predict the future. Today, they can turn to masses of data to project the future and help prepare for it.

That’s the goal of Solomon Hsiang, Chancellor’s Associate Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. In a talk at last May’s Cal Future Forum, he described his work analyzing past response to warming temperatures in terms of economic productivity and wages, to understand what a warming future holds for the planet.

Unfortunately, the burden will fall disproportionately on the world’s poor, he said. The brunt of the global economic burden will be borne by the poorest 60 percent of people, widening global economic inequality.

The challenge is to use our unprecedented access to data analysis and information technologies to make truly informed decisions about how we will address climate change and a warming Earth, Hsiang says.

“You should be optimistic,” Hsiang concluded. “For millennia, decision makers have made choices about the future based on the location of the stars or a fortune teller rolling the dice. For the first time in human history, we are able to exploit data, analytics and computing to see forward and what lies ahead with clear eyes and to make informed decisions about the world we want to live in and leave to our children.”

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