By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - In an effort to help Americans prepare for the effects of global warming, the White House on Wednesday unveiled a new initiative to make climate data widely available to citizens, companies and local governments.
The move is part of President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan, a broad strategy to meet U.S. commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide that are blamed for heating the earth.
Part of tackling climate change involves adapting to it, and the administration launched a website, climate.data.gov, to help people do that by gaining access to collated data from different government agencies.
"These data will be crucial to helping communities plan for floods and other climate impacts," John Podesta, a senior adviser to the president, told reporters in a briefing.
The administration is also releasing mapping information about critical infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and roads to help prepare for natural disasters and climate change-related problems.
Obama has made fighting climate change a focus this year for executive action as legislative initiatives such as immigration reform falter in Congress.
Podesta, who joined the White House at the beginning of 2014 as a counselor to Obama, is spearheading the push. He said he spent about 50 percent of his time on climate-related issues. Initiatives on energy efficiency will be forthcoming and a federal strategy on methane - another potent greenhouse gas - will be released in the not-too-distant future, he said.
Podesta said he had kept his pledge not to work on the issue of whether or not to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.
The former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton opposed the pipeline, which is loathed by environmentalists, before starting to work for the Obama White House and recused himself from the decision-making process. He said on Wednesday his views on the subject were well known to the president.
Obama has committed the United States to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2020. Podesta said the administration planned to announce its commitment for a post-2020 period in the first quarter of next year.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)