The inaugural Conference on Innovations in Climate Resilience March 29-30 at the Columbus Convention Center hosted several hundred leaders from all over the country. Organized by Battelle in collaboration with partners from U.S. Department of Energy national labs, the conference brought together a broad array of scientists, engineers and policy experts to discuss solutions and share ideas about the newest ways to bolster innovations in climate resilience.
Matt Vaughan, Battelle’s Executive Vice President of Applied Science and Technology and a driving force behind the conference, said it was powerful to see so many people representing different sciences, regulatory and market components of a future climate resilient economy in one place. “This conference had all the right people in one place, which is what we do. We’re not about one thing: We’re about all the right things in one place. To see fundamental researchers beside thought leaders from Washington D.C. to regulators to national lab experts, it was an incredible event.”
In his introductory remarks, Battelle Technical Fellow and event co-Chair Dr. Justin Sanchez set the tone. “We were driven to organize this meeting because climate change is an issue that requires urgency, innovation, and delivery of capabilities that will provide a positive impact on the world around us.”
A major theme of the event was the notion that we are standing at the doorstep of convergent science focused on solutions. Further, that we all are going to have to work together to understand and strengthen the resilience of Earth systems, including not just water, atmospheric, and biologic sciences, but also factoring in human activity.
The conference was highlighted by an opening call-to-action from Gina McCarthy, the White House National Climate Advisor. “The bipartisan infrastructure law builds a smart future that Battelle has always tried to bring to our country,” she said during her remarks. The federal government should be a pivotal partner in U.S. innovation working to protect lives and property by investing in climate resilience. The federal government should lead by example. If we don’t who will?”
Gina McCarthy (National Climate Advisor) presents her opening remarks.
Her opening speech was followed by two days of panel discussions, platform and poster presentations. Representatives from DARPA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense, universities, Department of Energy national laboratories and private business filled out an engaging agenda.
As people discussed their innovations and ideas about how best to adapt to climate changes, themes began to emerge about what to do. President Biden’s budget was a source of discussion, and it’s clear that the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense are already investing heavily in climate resilience, clear leading indicators of things to come.
Speakers from various branches of the federal government expressed the desire for help and collaboration with academia and private industry. Pat Hoffman, Acting Assistant Secretary in the DOE’s Office of Electricity, said “Help us now!” during her speech and asked for utilities to help the government with modeling.
Her thoughts were echoed by Dr. Sally Benson, Deputy Director for Energy in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. “We need an energy transition roadmap,” she said.
Scientists from many disciplines need to come together from varied angles to create a holistic approach to building resilience and to share big data. This conference was a start but much more is needed in the short and long term. “We’re on Spaceship Earth together,” said former NASA astronaut and founder and President of Endless Frontier Associates Dr. John Grunsfeld. “We need a systems engineering approach and earth systems models, not climate models. Geoengineering is too scary because of the unintended consequences but we’re doing it now by pumping the atmosphere full of greenhouse gases. It’s not working out that well.”
The necessity of nuclear power and how it is deployed around the country was the subject of much conversation, as was the electrification of more than just cars, but to fleets, military vehicles and more. Making the country’s power grid more resilient and resistant to attack also was a theme. Others included mining for natural resources in an environmentally sustainable way (including rare earth elements) and how we will provide food, energy and water to an increasingly urbanized population.
Battelle Chief Scientist Dr. Mike Kuhlman noted several themes. “There is no one silver bullet,” he said. “We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a climate that is going to continue to change. We can reduce the rate of change, with effort. And the G20 nations can't do it all on their own; developing nations will need to be an important part of the solutions. Technology alone may not be sufficient to solve the situation.”
Sharon Burke, Founder and President of Ecospherics, noted that the world will have to wean itself from dependence on fossil fuels, saying the Russian attack on Ukraine has made it clearer than ever that energy sources contribute to global insecurity.
Blake Bextine, Sherri Goodman, Brent Constantz and Sharon Burke discuss best practices for bringing your climate resilience solutions to market.
Dr. Mark Peters is Battelle’s Executive Vice President of Lab Operations, overseeing the management and operations of the DOE national laboratories where Battelle plays a role. He was impressed by the conference, he said. “I saw policymakers converging on policy priorities and directions coming from different perspectives,” he said. “I also saw a strong shift from detailed understanding of the impacts of climate change to starting down the path of understanding what we need to do to mitigate and adapt.”
To that end, Peters said, he also saw the emergence of test beds and associated modeling and analysis for mitigation and adaption in a variety of geographic and environmental settings as a key future direction.
The event’s co-Chair and Battelle Technical Fellow Dr. Amy Heintz said the event showcases the best of Battelle’s broad mission to harness science & technology for societal benefit. “It was inspiring to hear from speakers and from our audience, coming from every sector and technical discipline, to find a common language to discuss where we could take action,” she said. “It’s also a perfect time to make a directionally correct move. If the community innovates now, we will have technology ready as the market progresses.”