Even with innovations to slow global warming, we’ll need climate adaptation solutions for a long time. Here are some new ways of dealing with the impact of climate change that will become big in the years ahead

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We talked about adaptation a little when we talked about cities. Remember, adaptation is the term used to describe measures that help deal with the consequences of climate change. For example, flood protection. There’s a big need for more of this kind of project. But what are the innovative ideas that will be introduced in the future?

Let’s step back and look at the consequences of not having adaptation projects. One of them is forced displacement—some people refer to this as migration, but, after all, people ought to be able to migrate when they want to do so; they should never be forced to leave their homes, so it’s better to refer to forced displacement in this context. It gets too hot to grow crops or you have a few years of failed harvests in a particular area, so the people who live there are forced to move. In developing countries that can mean moving to shantytowns on the edge of big cities, which results in other problems.

One way to stop climate change uprooting people like this is just now being developed. It’s climate insurance.

Climate adaptation climate solutions for poor harvests

The idea is that microfinance institutions would sell insurance to small farmers, so that they’d be covered against poor crops. Of course, this is a bit like insuring someone’s house when it’s already burning down, because we know that climate change is causing poor harvests. So institutions like the European Investment Bank are now figuring out how to get involved, to create incentives and subsidies for this kind of insurance.

Some of you may say, “Look, there will be technologies that cut greenhouse gas emissions. If those things work, then we’ll have fewer emissions and, soon enough, we won’t have so many extreme weather events. Which means we don’t need adaptation.”

The thing is, the sheer volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere means that you’ll need adaptation for quite some time yet, at least.

Innovative adaptation climate solutions

The innovative technologies in this area include weather forecasting tech that allows you to anticipate weather conditions and prepare for extreme events. Technology allows the analysis of weather data—not just its collection—much faster than before. A lot of this information is from small satellites, which are getting cheaper to build and launch, often by small start-up companies, like OroraTech, which was founded by students at the Technical University of Munich. This doesn’t just save lives, it allows businesses to prepare and helps the economy to continue to function during a time of extreme weather events.

This information can be disseminated to small digital devices. Farmers can study seasonal forecasts on a mobile phone, and they can decide to delay planting their crops until next month, say, after a coming storm. Or harvest them now, before the storm comes.

Water technology will allow communities to deal with harsh droughts. One of those technologies already being used is desalination. But we’ll need to think about alternatives because taking the salt out of seawater is expensive and rising sea levels will lead to salt in groundwater too. Scientists and investors are looking at natural ways to purify water. In the years ahead, you’ll see these techniques commercialized for use in developing countries.

Let’s also not forget disease. You’re just going through a pandemic. Well, infectious diseases are spreading because of higher temperatures. That brings tropical disease to places that didn’t harbour them in the past. In combination with the pandemic, this has brought a new impetus to research on tropical diseases and the development of drugs to treat them.

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