Technologies in a changing climate

Climate change for a long time now has stopped being a question of ‘if…’ and more a matter of ‘how much’ (and the answer to that currently isn’t very nice).

To deal with this, enter technologies. They fall into three categories:

1) Mitigation – reducing emission from human activities, from home efficiency devices to renewables and nuclear energy;
2) Adaptation – ways of dealing with the impacts of varying rainfall, temperature, sea level rise and increased frequency and magnitude of disaster events. Most urgent for the poorest groups and those in low lying states where the most vulnerability lies, but planning is also under way for London, Durban, and other developed cities.
3) Geo-engineering – large and unproven projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere or reflect the solar radiation. Includes; ocean iron fertilization projects; mirrors in space; pipes; dreams.

Arguably, the most iconic climate change related technology is the wind turbine, used for clean energy generation. Less is known about the possibility of mirrors in space, and probably for the best. But adaptation technologies are equally mysterious for many people in developed countries. This is springs from a lack of awareness that people in developing countries feel climate change most acutely – “first and worst”.

Nevertheless, adaptation is happening spontaneously as people respond to the altered conditions they find in their area. Technologies, whether used to diversify livelihoods or protect assets, can make this easier, but people will also have to adapt their technologies in order to keep them appropriate.

Enter climate uncertainty – not knowing precisely how climate change will manifest in a specific area over the next two-three decades – and you have a problem that requires new ways of thinking about technology and a new way of doing development.

Today’s Geek Club (Practical Action’s online discussion forum) from 10am to 4pm will discuss the issues of technology for adaptation. This is set against the back drop of the current round of climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, where countries are discussing proposals for ‘technology transfer’ to developing countries to support adaptation. Come and join us as we consider the how, what, and why not of adapting to climate change.

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