• Description

Environmental data, which takes many forms, is essential for effective climate action, environmental management and public health protection, but has not been prioritized as a useful tool. Current incentives, standards, rules, and regulations related to environmental data are not always workable for communities collecting and using data, nor for government actors who could use this data to better inform policy and decision making. An opportunity to make environmental data work better for us lies in recognizing it as a public good.

This brief presents the opportunity to firmly establish environmental data as a public good in both the traditional sense of being non-rival and non-excludable, as well as in expanding the conceptualization of public goods to include utility and equity. To fully reach its potential as a public good, government, community, and academic stakeholders must address four major barriers: (i) lack of awareness of, (ii) overabundance of, (iii) the potential to misuse, and (iv) lack of infrastructure for environmental data resources. The data and its infrastructure must also be workable and useful for users with diverse experiences, capacities, and access to resources.

The current political moment presents several opportunities for the use of environmental data as a public good in service of environmental justice and climate solutions. Any efforts to leverage these opportunities should also support understanding, accountability, and the need for useful tools and infrastructure beyond this political cycle.

Opportunity Brief: Environmental Data as a Public Good