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Sylvia Li
How We Survive

“How We Survive”: suggested reading on climate change adaptation

Marketplace Staff May 13, 2019
Sylvia Li

In addition to sharing our coverage of climate change adaptation on “Marketplace Tech,” we also want to highlight great writing, important documents and interesting facets of the bigger conversations in play. Here you’ll find work we’ve mentioned in our podcast or come across in our reporting for “How We Survive.” We’ll update this page as we go.

MIT Technology Review dedicates its latest issue entirely to climate change mitigation and adaptation, with insights on cooling the ocean, fighting wildfires in Australia and more.

Our series will also cover, as we often do on “Marketplace Tech,” the uneven distribution of tech to adapt to climate change and whether the most vulnerable communities have access to it and funding for it. To that end, Boston’s WBUR details fears of “green gentrification” as that city works to become more resilient to flooding and sea-level rise.

Yet at a recent meeting of the Arctic Council, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to frame melting sea ice as a positive development for international shipping. The eight-member group issued a short statement instead of more powerful formal resolution, reportedly due to U.S. reluctance around language on climate change. Pompeo denied blame.

In April, the Environmental Protection Agency published this 150-page document telling local governments to start planning now for debris removal after disasters, given that extreme weather across the country is expected to increase.

One of the big questions about climate intelligence is the role of artificial intelligence. This New York Times story outlines the way various artificial intelligence efforts are being applied to climate adaptation and recovery from extreme weather events.

In the United Kingdom, the University of Sheffield helped create a connected sewer control system that uses AI to detect and manage rising water during extreme weather and flooding, and automatically open and close various gates to keep sewers from overflowing.

The U.K.’s national environmental agency said that country will have to spend a billion pounds a year on flood management if it’s going to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and that whole neighborhoods might have to relocate because of flooding.

In other climate news, Ireland declared a national climate emergency last week. The U.K. has done the same, and New Zealand may follow. In the U.K., that means reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. It’s less clear what it means in Ireland, but getting back to our point about the money, one assumes that funding should be involved.

If you’re looking for more “How We Survive,” subscribe to “Make Me Smart,” Molly Wood’s podcast with Kai Ryssdal, which is all about the economics of climate adaptation this week.

Two central bankers wrote an open letter last month about the threat climate change poses to the global economy. There’s a good discussion of it on a recent episode of University of Pennsylvania’s radio show, “Knowledge@Wharton.”

We also learned this week that global carbon dioxide levels have hit their highest number in human history: 415 parts per million. Scientists say that was probably last the case around 3 million years ago, when sea levels were at least 50 or 60 feet higher — and the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets probably didn’t exist.

Venture capital funding for clean-tech startups has fallen for most of the past decade, the New York Times reported, because investors don’t think there’s money to be made there. A lot of VCs rushed into clean tech and solar about a decade ago. Most of them didn’t make any money and don’t want to get burned again.

Speaking of Silicon Valley: The fancy headquarters belonging to Google, Facebook and other tech giants are likely to end up underwater, even under conservative models of sea level rise. This Guardian story is a good primer as we look at how Big Tech is reacting (or not reacting) to climate change.

National Geographic dug into climate adaptation earlier this year. Reporter Andrew Revkin notes Al Gore’s evolving stance on adaptation, calling it “a kind of laziness” back in 1992. By 2013, Gore said he was wrong, and we should pursue climate adaptation hand in hand with policies to mitigate climate change.

Finally, we got some feedback on the introduction to this series from Brendon Slotterback, who sent us this 2011 Grist piece and said, “Any discussion of adaptation should begin with a clear-eyed look at where we’re headed under current emissions: a future in which the ability to ‘adapt’ is itself in question.”

The New York Times has been reporting on the Trump administration’s efforts to diminish the science around climate change, including the kinds of reporting and modeling that previous US assessments have offered.  Scientists said the administration’s efforts to undermine the data produced by the US government will paint an inaccurately rosy picture of the next 20 years or so, before significant warming really sets in.

We want to hear what you think about this series: Tweet at Molly or shoot us an email, we’re mptech@marketplace.org

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