Most climate technology innovations (which fill my inbox every day at least) clearly fall into the mitigation category, in the form of software and applied technologies designed to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.
But the undercurrents discussed during New York Climate Week last week focused on the urgent need for adaptation solutions, a desire to help people and the planet cope with the climate change we’re already experiencing, such as those related to melting glaciers, droughts, heat waves and extreme weather events from around the world. These could include ways to build coral reefs, creating natural coastal buffer zones or sophisticated early warning systems to warn of wildfires or other extreme conditions earlier, allowing for faster mobilization of a coordinated response.
“We can be shocked by the pictures of the devastation, but we can no longer pretend to be surprised,” Helen Clarkson, chief executive of The Climate Group, said in her opening remarks, referring to the devastation in flood-ravaged Pakistan on September 9. 25 Received $2 billion in commitments to help rebuild infrastructure and build future resilience.
The condition behind the $3 billion in community development and grant funding announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in March is an awareness of the need for adaptation and resilience. The funds are earmarked for disaster recovery, with an eye toward long-term mitigation and climate resilience — no longer rebuilding for rebuilding’s sake, a mantra for FEMA in the era of President Joe Biden.
As you might imagine, representatives from the International Rescue Committee, the European Investment Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also need to focus more consciously on adaptation in their climate week speeches. This has been a rallying cry and a sticking point since COP 15, when developed countries pledged to start disbursing $100 billion a year in adaptation funding to the countries most affected by climate change. Although the promised date for 2020 has passed, most of the money has not materialized.
While no one doubts the need, it will be difficult to get commitments from those with deep pockets, and funding will be a major topic of discussion at the upcoming COP 27 in Egypt. Experts believe that adapting to climate change will require the kind of multilateralism demonstrated during the global response to COVID-19, shaped by local priorities but accelerated by an unprecedented spirit of global cooperation. IMF Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: “The only way to solve problems in the global commons is to act together. Trade is a tool for adaptation.”
The venture capital community, which has been a good barometer of emerging technology trends, is now showing a preference for a more aggressive and accessible tool of adaptation, wildfire detection.
Firecast is a mature data platform primarily used by government agencies. This is an initiative managed by Conservation International to help track fires in the Amazon and Indonesia in 2019. Now, a growing number of startups are proposing the use of artificial intelligence and a range of sensing options, from cameras to drones and other devices, to help communications and companies better handle wildfire management.
Just this week, a Berlin-based startup, Dryad Networks, unveiled a solar-powered sensor network for wildfire detection. It has ongoing projects in the US, Europe, Canada and Asia, with 230,000 units on order by 2023. It is unique in that its technology can flag fires during the smoldering phase and relay data for IoT networks using commonly used mesh networking communication protocols.
Another example is San Francisco-based Pano AI, which last week raised a $20 million Series A round led by Initialized Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm with more than 200 active companies in its portfolio. The startup has designed a panoramic detection solution that sits atop an existing hilltop tower or tank; it uses artificial intelligence to scan image sources and detect the presence of smoke. Human analysts also evaluate footage to speed up situational awareness.
Sonia Kastner, co-founder and CEO of Pano AI, told me that “humanity needs a dual track” to address climate change, emphasizing the need for businesses and communities to mitigate and adapt to climate change at the same time. “We need to work on climate change that’s already there.”
To date, Pano’s technology is being used in “dozens of states” in five U.S. states with active wildfire seasons (California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon) and in Australia’s New South Wales and Queensland. “locations”. Two utilities, Xcel Energy and Portland General Electric, are using the solution to manage assets at risk of fire. Beyond detection, private companies may use Pano’s products to plan public safety outages or help restore power and internet service more quickly.
“We see an opportunity to bring additional intelligence to our clients during all phases of a disaster,” Castner said. Other logical corporate clients include all types of landowners, especially timber management organisations, she noted. Over time, the aim is to use the information to warn of mudslides or floods and fire risks. Kastner estimates that about 15,000 Pano sites could cover high-risk areas in the United States.
Another startup relying on artificial intelligence to help adapt to climate change is Truckee, Calif.-based software company Vibrant Planet, which received $17 million in seed funding in June. Its backers include major backers Ecosystem Integrity Fund and Emerson Collective, funded by companies including John Doerr, Tom Steyer and Microsoft.
Vibrant Planet calls its Land Tender product a forest management “operating system,” centered around supporting wildfire risk reduction and recovery projects. Its purpose is to allow agencies, park boards, county offices and other agencies to develop plans to optimize the health of the area by collecting metrics on endangered species, recreational travel, waterways, and more.
For example, in late September, partners including the Tahoe Fund and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation began using the software to begin managing about 1.5 million acres in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The idea is to make it easier for all the different stakeholders in a given region to share information with each other.
Tahoe Truckee Tahoe CEO Stacy Caldwell said: “When stakeholders have different views on their value in the landscape or backyard, unable to see each other’s views or how different scenarios might play out in the future, Collaboration is challenging.” Community Foundation, in a statement. “Vibrant Planet’s software allows landowners and other stakeholders to develop scenarios that meet their goals, and then share their scenarios with each other to drive alignment so we can get more conservation and restoration work done faster.”
For example, according to Allison Wolff, CEO of Vibrant Planet, the software helps landowners choose the right management option — whether it’s planning a controlled event, such as burning a prescribed burn until it reaches a “tree or house” level of data, Or other methods of removing biomass. The software uses lidar and other imaging techniques to provide tree-level views.
The company is encouraging landowners to look to indigenous tribes for forest restoration techniques. By analysing the benefits associated with certain practices from a carbon financing or water conservation/drought management perspective, land tenders give them a better understanding of how to prioritize and value these efforts. “A lot of the trick is to aggregate public-level data,” she told me. “We’re a data-rich nation, and we’re a analytics-poor nation.” Vibrant Planet plans to change that when it comes to managing resources critical to climate adaptation.
Pano AI and Vibrant Planet are just two businesses focused on adaptation rather than mitigation, but as the reality of our current situation deepens, I expect countless similar adaptation businesses to emerge. As the chairman and CEO of the International Rescue Committee said during Climate Week last week, “It’s about combining knowledge from international experience with experience on the ground. If you look at the statistics, you get frustrated, but if you look at the people It gives you hope.”