Technology’s Role in Climate Change Adaptation

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1Q 2022 | IN-6475

The IPCC released an assessment report highlighting the impacts of climate change. Technology will be key in the global efforts to not only curb harmful emissions but also to adapt to climate change impacts.

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Assessment by the IPCC

NEWS


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, recently released their Sixth Assessment Report. The report evaluates the impacts of climate change at global and regional levels and reviews vulnerabilities, capacities, and limits of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change. Key highlights from the report include:

  • Every region is affected, with no inhabited area escaping dire impacts from rising temperatures and increasingly extreme weather.
  • Up to 3.6 billion people live in areas “highly vulnerable” to climate change.
  • Climate hazards and risk have significantly worsened in the last decade (i.e., more intense storms and wildfires, increased flooding, etc.).
  • Even at the current levels of warming, millions of people face food and water shortages due to climate change.
  • Mass die-offs of species are already under way.
  • Anything beyond 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels constitutes a “critical level” in which the impacts of the climate crisis accelerate rapidly, with some being irreversible.
  • Coastal areas around the globe, and small, low-lying islands, face flooding at temperature rises of more than 1.5°C.
  • Key ecosystems are losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, turning them from carbon sinks to carbon sources.
  • Some countries have agreed to conserve 30% of the Earth’s land, but conserving half may be necessary to restore the ability of natural ecosystems to cope with the damage wreaked on them.

Innovative Technologies Playing Their Part

IMPACT


The findings of the report paint a grim picture of our future if the status quo remains. However, the IPCC working groups have also been able to detail possible ways that we can adapt and protect against the impacts of climate breakdown. One key theme was the need for countries and their governments to build resilience to global change. Feasible options with “high” to “very high” confidence from scientists focused on five key areas for future climate adaptation: land and ocean systems, coastal, urban infrastructure, energy systems, and cross sectoral. Examples include forest conservation, improved water use efficiency, green infrastructure, resilient power systems, disaster risk management, agroforestry, water storage, and energy generation diversification, among many others. This is where technology can be a key enabler, accelerating the path to building resilience to cope with the harsh effects of climate change.

Australian start-up AirSeed Technology looks to combat deforestation using drones equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI). The company, whose autonomous drones each can plant over 40,000 seed pods per day, aims to plant 100 million trees by 2024. The drones, when deployed, fly fixed predefined flight paths, and record each seeds’ coordinates, allowing AirSeed to monitor the health and growth of the trees. Last year, Blackberry, in partnership with the University of Windsor, launched its flood risk and clean water monitoring solution. This solution, deployed in Canada, where Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately affected by such issues, works autonomously, and provides all-year-round monitoring in addition to an intelligence early warning system. Real-time data is being collected through IoT sensors and processed to identify water-related risks, ultimately generating cost savings for governments, utility firms, and the local communities. These are among many other solutions that can help build resilience towards the ever-growing issue of climate change. Investments and continued development of these technologies will be important to keep pace with the worsening global environment.

The Technological Balancing Act

RECOMMENDATIONS


Innovative technology, such as the examples mentioned above, is essential for both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. However, relying on technology alone will not be enough. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it was highlighted that some of the technological fixes, such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), will not be able to scale up to levels that are required, especially with increased economic growth driving up energy demand. In order to remove carbon from the atmosphere at the scale required, CCS methods may use up to half of the current global electricity generation. As such, it is extremely important to strike a balance and prevent the over-reliance on technology—something that could potentially cause more harm than good. Overall, the use of technology can be beneficial to the global fight against climate change and its effects with new innovations and cutting-edge solutions being created.

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