Climate Change Adaptation Is The Greatest Entrepreneurial Challenge Of Our Time
Dec 14, 2018
<h5>While the world's political leaders attempt to write a new rulebook for mitigating global temperature rise, entrepreneurs should pay attention to another urgent challenge: climate change adaptation.</h5>
<p class="wp-caption-text">FORBES -- In the middle of Polish coal country, leaders of nearly all the world’s nations are currently attempting to write a new rulebook for the global battle against climate disruption. Three years ago, the Paris Agreement set out the goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. This week's COP24 summit is where the world agrees on how to get there.</p><p class="wp-caption-text"></p><p><br/></p><p></p> <p>Much of the focus is on efforts to mitigate future temperature rise by curbing greenhouse gas emissions, but less attention has been paid to risk reduction and adaptation right now. According to the Climate Policy Initiative, global financing for climate action has been steadily increasing to an estimated $510 billion per year (a 12-16% increase from last year). But “when looking at investment in activities to increase resilience to climate change, the picture is darker.” Only $22 billion per year, or four percent, goes to climate change adaptation.</p> <h4>Why adaptation matters</h4> <p>It’s hard to miss the accelerating impact of climate disruption unfolding all around us. In 2018 alone, we saw more than 70 powerful tropical cyclones (vs. the average of 53), and the deadliest wildfire in the US in more than a century. The past four years have been the hottest on record. And these impacts are costly: Extreme weather and air pollution have cost more than $240 billion a year for the last 10 years in the US alone.</p><p><br/></p> <p>One of the great tragedies of global warming is that the communities least at fault are most at risk. Developed countries are responsible for the vast majority of historical CO2 emissions: 79 percent. The entirety of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America? Only four percent. In rural communities throughout these regions—where the vast majority of the population depends on agriculture to survive—climate change is nothing less than an existential threat. Smallholder farmers don’t have the luxury of being climate change deniers. Adaptation is, therefore, as much about justice as it is about economics.</p><p><br/></p> <p>We need a comprehensive global effort to both mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. But the latter is not a secondary challenge that can be put on hold until the world solves the former. It’s an immediate need.</p><p><br/></p> <p>It’s also a very complex challenge. With mitigation, there’s a common unit—greenhouse gas—that needs to be reduced across the board, primarily through policy and financing initiatives. Adaptation, on the other hand, requires a more localized, participatory approach. One person or community may need to adapt to drought, while another faces severe rainfall and flooding. There is no “one size fits all” solution; which may, in part, explain why adaptation receives less attention and funding. But this complexity is as much an opportunity as it is a challenge. Adaptation lends itself to an entrepreneurial approach and to extreme, multi-stakeholder collaboration. It requires actors from across the science, technology, investing, business, nonprofit, and community sectors, working together to identify breakthrough, cost-effective strategies. It is, in fact, the greatest entrepreneurial challenge of our time.</p> <h4>What adaptation looks like</h4> <p>A lot of this innovative work is already happening, particularly in the arena of resilient agriculture—and it’s worth surveying this broad expanse to pinpoint some key principles for entrepreneurs and investors to keep in mind.</p><p><br/>
<br/></p><p></p><ul><li><b>Mapping climate risk.</b> A critical first step in any climate change adaptation investment is to map current and future risks. Real-time data about weather patterns, soil health, sea level, and more will help better inform communities about their options. For example, my organization, Root Capital, is part of a consortium called the Alliance for Resilient Coffee that is assessing climate-related risk to coffee production and supply chains; among other things, our partners are mapping current land uses, deforestation patterns, and environmental and social risks to aid in decision making and action planning around adaptation. Similarly, applied research institutions like the Gund Institute for Environment study the implications of climate change for communities and ecosystems around the world, from the population health of bees in Costa Rica to the genetic diversity (and therefore resilience) of wild seed varieties. These data-driven exercises are a crucial part of decision making around adaptation roadmaps. </li></ul><ul><li><b>Identifying local solutions in partnership with affected communities.</b> All adaptation approaches must be driven by participation of local communities, especially more marginalized groups. Women, for example, make up the majority of the world’s poor and are thus disproportionately affected by climate change. Adaptation strategies must therefore account for challenges, needs, and opportunities that are unique to women: Does this strategy decrease or increase women’s extra household labor? Will this technology be equally accessible by women and men? Similar analysis must be done in partnership with other marginalized groups. Some organizations specialize, for instance, in engaging indigenous communities in climate change adaptation. Nia Tero supports indigenous people around the world to continue to act as stewards of their land, ensuring they have the economic power and cultural independence to protect their livelihoods and territories. Amazon Conservation Team works with these communities and with local and national governments to secure indigenous governance of vital ecosystems. These approaches have been shown to preserve both cultural and biological diversity.</li></ul> <p></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><br/></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><img src="https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fspecials-images.forbesimg.com%2Fdam%2Fimageserve%2F965322598%2F960x0.jpg%3Ffit%3Dscale" style="height: 611px;width: 796px;"/></p><p><b>Close up view showing dirty hands of a farmer holding soil and fresh young green plant together <small class="article-photo-credit" style="font-size: 9px;">GETTY</small></b></p><p></p><ul><li><b>Leveraging science and technology.</b> Adaptation approaches should be guided by the best available scientific and technical knowledge. While not a panacea—especially given varying levels of accessibility—technology can help reduce costs and accelerate results. The success of these approaches depends, in large part, on how well they are integrated into the lives of their users. For instance, mobile technology is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, even in remote communities. Tech-Innov, a start-up in Niger, integrates a solar pump mechanism with a mobile app that allows farmers to control the irrigation system remotely. The system conserves water and energy, while also providing the farmer with data on rainfall, temperature, and soil moisture content so they can better adapt to changing climatic conditions. In Bangladesh, the government and nonprofits like the International Rice Research Institute have disbursed specially-engineered seeds that can grow in water that has become heavily saline due to flooding along the coast. Crucially, these entities have also provided training so that communities have the knowledge and resources to successfully implement these adaptation strategies. </li></ul><ul><li><b>Utilizing existing networks to share best practices.</b> While there is no “one size fits all,” a lot of learning can be shared among the diverse actors working in this space—and there are a number of existing community networks through which to distribute these lessons. For example, Rainforest Alliance recently created a series of training materials tailored to climate risks to cocoa farmers in West Africa. Though a farmer in Ghana may be facing different challenges than one in Cote d’Ivoire, sharing best practices can help individuals better prioritize their options based on need and capacity. Rainforest Alliance works directly with agricultural enterprises, like cocoa cooperatives, who want to add value to their products by earning the organization’s distinct sustainability seal. These businesses are perfect distribution channels for adaptation resources, since they aggregate hundreds or even thousands of farmers. Similarly, at Root Capital, we build the capacity of technical staff at agricultural cooperatives so they can, in turn, provide tailored training to their farmer-members. In this way, we can scale up and mainstream adaptation practices, while also ensuring they remain heavily context-driven.</li></ul> <p></p><p><br/></p><p>Of course, in many cases, the elements above will coexist. The very nature of climate change adaptation strategies is that they must be multi-pronged and nimble—meaning that these types of approaches necessarily require a flexible investment of time and money.</p> <h4>A path forward</h4> <p>Social entrepreneurs, investors, and other private actors—unlike most governments—have inherent flexibility. They can experiment, identify the best solutions, and share that knowledge with others. Given the scale and variety of climate adaptation challenges, this is crucial.</p><p><br/></p> <p>What’s more, there is a clear business case for building more resilient communities. Climate disruption is already driving massive economic shocks. Globally, it is weakening important value chains, damaging vital infrastructure, harming public health, and displacing millions from their homes. A few weeks ago, the White House and 13 federal agencies released a National Climate Assessment, which asserts that climate change will shave up to 10 percent off of US GDP by the end of the century. Stabilizing communities at most risk from climate change should, therefore, be a priority for any business or investor.</p><p><br/></p> <p>Recognizing this, last week, the World Bank Group announced that it would double its existing financial commitment to climate action to reach $200 billion over five years. A quarter of this is earmarked for adaptation finance—at $10 billion a year, it’s a significant increase over current levels. In the official press release, Philippe Le Houérou, CEO of the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group), illuminated the way forward: “There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet. Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment.”</p><p><br/></p> <p>These opportunities can be found in diverse sectors—from infrastructure to climate-smart agriculture—and may involve a wide range of actors. With a significant influx of public and private finance, participatory approaches, and a willingness to share lessons learned, we can unlock a more resilient future for our planet and its people.</p><p><br/></p><h5>Thank you to our friends at <i>FORBES </i>for providing the original articles below:</h5>
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