Battelle has been solving society’s most difficult challenges for nearly a century. On the heels of the hottest year ever recorded, the need for immediate action to address global climate change has our full attention. Put simply, we believe policy must join with innovation to chart our path forward.
We should question the fundamental constructs of how climate resilience is approached. For example, are we performing adequate systems engineering as a nation to drive our policies or are we pursuing individual slices of the overall problem in isolation?
Our policies are presently driven and calculated by ever increasing “costs of future climate degradation.” This is illustrated by a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information which tells us that a combination of climate change and population growth has given rise to billion-dollar disasters happening on average every three weeks somewhere on the planet. By contrast, in the 1980s (adjusted for inflation) such disasters happened once every four months.
Today, record levels of fiscal stimulus are already showing that the buildout of climate resilience technologies will be a bathtub curve in relation to cost (high at first, driven down by scale, and then ultimately higher due to global demand moving past supply). This sparks the fundamental question of whether there is a better methodology that produces a more measured roll out and realistic timelines of transition (not instantaneous). Using a systems engineering approach tied to thoughtful policy implementation could produce solutions that balance solar/wind with reliable backups, electric buildouts that proceed at a moderate pace with aggressive incentivization of switching from coal, accelerating new safer nuclear tech, and a stronger focus on resiliency through insurance laws, permitting, and building standards.
These concepts mirror the themes of adaptation, mitigation and sustainability at our third Innovations in Climate Resilience, or ICR24, to be held in person April 22-24, 2024 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, in Washington, DC. If you are intrigued by these concepts we invite you to join us and participate in the discussion. This year, we’ve partnered with the prestigious Wilson Center, bringing a critical new dimension to the conference and adding the importance of the nation’s key nonpartisan policy forum for tackling global issues. Together, we will bring policymakers and innovators under one roof and we believe that people can do amazing things when they work together and have the proper support.
In this pivotal moment of existential threat, we need a harmonized approach from every sector of society—government, academia and industry. That means we need to combine robust policy measures with groundbreaking innovations to create a symbiotic, joint approach to break the climate change cycle and foster a sustainable future.
“The time is now to determine how all of the systems involved in global climate resiliency fit together,” said Battelle Technical Fellow Justin Sanchez. “We need to assess what choices we are making and decide when and how they are implemented so they make financial sense and lead to sustainability. The policies of today will have a direct impact on climate change in the future. We must have policy makers meet those who supply the innovative answers, and that’s why we’re hosting ICR24.”
A comprehensive policy framework is the necessary foundation for this endeavor. Market forces alone will not scale climate solutions, so policies that direct funding toward scaling solutions will be critical to achieving any stated goals. We would counsel leaders in the United States to enact and enforce legislation that not only reduces emissions but encourages sustainable practices. To ensure a livable home planet, policymakers have a responsibility to set ambitious targets for emission reductions and cleaning up legacy emissions, promote renewable energy adoption and incentivize sustainable practices.
“Climate change is shaping our future in never-before-seen ways, and at the same time, we’re living through a period of significant demographic change,” said Wilson Center Director for Environmental Change and Security, Lauren Risi. “Traditional tools for assessing and responding to risk—and building resilience—are no longer fit for purpose. ICR24 will bring together visionaries, policymakers, researchers, the private sector, and affected communities to chart a better way forward.”
While policy is providing the frame, innovation is the engine driving progress. When the government supports research and development, public-private partnerships can spur a wave of creative solutions. Breakthroughs such as direct air capture and hydrogen hubs, energy storage and sustainable agriculture are good examples of current efforts to significantly reshape the landscape of climate action.
Global climate change affects all of us; no one gets to sit this one out. But we still have our destiny in our own hands. If we work together, we can make our own future, as opposed to waiting to see what happens because it’s just too hard to do something today.
Our call for abstracts is open now, as is early bird registration for ICR24. Join us, our friends from the United States Department of Energy national labs, the Wilson Center and the brightest thinkers, innovators and policymakers next April in D.C. It will be unlike any other climate conference you’ve ever attended, a place and time for all of us to come at this problem from various angles and devise new, connected solutions.