Advanced Technologies for Climate Resilience

During one of our climate Brain Trust meeting, experts came up with a vision that by 2040 advanced technologies to enhance climate resilience would be readily available everywhere.

We want to learn from you:

  1. What type of advanced technologies could be used to enhance climate resilience.
  2. What are the key barriers to realize this vision?

Hi @akb, @swihera, and @hopkepk,
We would love to hear your thoughts on advanced technologies for climate resilience.

Hi @Shashi
The scale and pace of this global venture are significant factors. This is probably the first time the global population has been tasked with such an immediate and widespread challenge [except perhaps for the current pandemic]. And, just responding to the challenge itself might well have a significant, detrimental, environmental impact if it is not done carefully - as all human activities have some environmental impact (even actions that are intended to do “good”). So ideally careful thought and wisdom should be applied to a coordinated task, rather than a free for all where apparently beneficial actions speed ahead without evaluating the magnitude of their associated downsides first. Of course, global coordination and cooperation are difficult and typically take too much time to organise [so that’s one potential barrier]. For anyone wishing to see examples of past achievements and negative consequences see: Good, Bad and Ugly Innovations.

The scale and impact of future advanced technologies will be huge! Hopefully, this means a positive impact for the primary goal [of climate change] but the associated potential downsides might also be significant given the scale. The point here is to carefully consider what these downsides might be, before racing ahead. Some aspects will be unique to each technology, and so they cannot be fully listed here in advance. Providing an evaluation of these when they crop up in the XPRIZE challenge might be the way ahead. We can then ask what’s good about this technology, what’s bad and how might it lead to [what would have been] unforeseen ugly outcomes.

A set of advanced technologies might be deployed on land, at sea, in the atmosphere, and in space. Each offering unique benefits and risks.

Given the scale, impact and duration of proposed future solutions it is worth putting their attributes within the context of a long term sustainability scale. Consider the impact arising from supply chains, manufacturing, deployment, operation, maintenance, waste, and decommissioning / end of life processes. If any of these aspects has a sustainability below Category 3 then perhaps it is not the most appropriate solution for the environment and climate change. On the other hand, if none of the proposed solutions can achieve this rating then a compromise might have to be made. The clock is ticking and so, perhaps, a sub-standard solution in this respect might have a role to play in the short term (~ 10 years). This might then be replaced with a better solution (C=3) later. In other words, there might be an XPRIZE now, and another one in ten years for a better solution - using technology we are not aware of today [perhaps a solution to yet be derived, by a future AI for example].

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Hi @rdrogers and @bhaskarmv,
Given your vast experience and knowledge, we would like to know your thoughts on the type of advanced technologies which could be used to enhance climate resilience.
Also what are the key barriers to realize this vision?

We hear a lot of energy-related technologies, but little about sustainable materials other than ‘plastic is a problem.’ We need sustainable use of abundant natural resources with technologies that protect the environment, maintain biodiversity, and provide economic equality and social justice. This doesn’t always mean find a natural replacement for plastics, but to find natural materials which replace the function of plastics. Perhaps we need a 1930s XPrize to Henry Ford for the Soybean Car he promoted with George Washington Carver!

The challenges and barriers are typically economic feasibility. We are too used to cheap throw away products and its hard to compete with dirt cheap plastics. We need our industrial base to understand the broad business implications of sustainable practice and to use this insight to develop innovative, sustainable technologies and create markets for them.

Non-regulatory innovative and environmentally-aware research and development approaches to cleaner, sustainable chemical products and processes based on positive environmental and economic advances, rather than imposed regulatory and statutory limits, will lead to new technologies which will be the basis of economic growth through new businesses, jobs, and a trained entrepreneurial workforce.

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Thanks @rdrogers for sharing these insights. Good points.

Hi @wennberg and @ThoTem - We would love to hear your thoughts on advanced technologies for climate resilience.