Adapting in Advance

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“Adapt to that which you can’t prevent, prevent that to which you can’t adapt.”
—Bill McKibben

Back in January, we began a blog with this statement, pointing out that adaptation is the new imperative. We never knew just how close to home this would strike—not only for those of us who just experienced the Colorado Flood, but also for those around the country and around the world whose 2013 has included a wildfire, tornado, heat wave, monsoon and/or blizzard the likes of which we’ve not seen in recorded history.

So what does this mean for cleantech? Most definitions of cleantech focus on the potential for technical invention to mitigate environmental degradation and pollution, increase energy efficiency, and limit our use of scarce natural resources. But by now it’s apparent that climate change is a forcing function that will drive technical innovation, behavior modification and market change on a scale few imagine. What are the disruptive technologies and business models that will accelerate this evolution? The business leaders of the next decade—“cleantech” or not—will be more anticipatory than reactionary. Responders will flounder; anticipators will thrive.

Here’s what we can expect:

Warmer temperatures

How will we keep our cool? Everything from ventilation to the control of solar gain will be more critical.

Not enough water (except when there’s too much)

Look for technologies that increase the efficiency with which we use and reuse sea water, rainwater and graywater.

More intense storms, rising sea levels

There will be increasing demand for products, services and building techniques that better protect lives and property in the path of flooding and high winds.

Power interruptions

Renewable energy sources and distributed generation processes will be the most sustainable in the face of all of the above. Economical, scalable methods of on-site, real-time generation and portable storage systems become more valuable all the time. Less often recognized is the need to ensure passive survivability for buildings and local communities in the event they lose access to electricity or fuel or water. New offerings that help provide, prolong or maintain livable conditions (especially heating, cooling, and ventilation, but also mobility and communications) in these situations will be essential.

If we’ll need it tomorrow, we need to be inventing it today. If your company is on this path—or you want to bring to our attention one that is—we hope you’ll drop us a line. We may just feature your efforts in a future blog post.

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