The future of water: How innovations will advance water sustainability and resilience worldwide – World Bank

15 Aug 2020

As the global population hurtles towards 9.7 billion people by 2050, it has never been more important to produce more with less. As the water supply and sanitation (WSS) sector continues to face increasing pressures, especially due to the impacts of climate change, governments in the developing world will need to increase the sector’s resilience and sustainability. Innovation and technology have a vital role to play in scarcity and safety, water efficiency, utility operations, monitoring and treatment and data and analytics. The World Bank, along with water innovation accelerator Imagine H2O, recently hosted a virtual event showcasing fourteen water technology businesses with especially promising products and services.

The businesses highlighted in the webinar offer technologies that help utilities serve customers digitally, manage water resources remotely and in real time, empower farmers to make water smart decisions and utilize distributed technology to expand water and wastewater services to underserved communities.

Smarter Homes, is a company that produces the WaterOn device, which is a smart metering and automated leakage prevention system. Thus far, the device has been used on apartment buildings in India and has helped save 40,000 households an average of 35 percent of water consumption.

Ignitia is a company that uses machine learning and remote sensing to send text messages to small-scale farmers with hyper-local information on climates and weather forecasts. The service has thus far led to a 65 percent average yield increase across different staples, and a $476 increase in average farmer income.

Oneka is another company that helps consumers obtain safe drinking water without utilizing land or emitting greenhouse gases. Oneka’s wave-powered desalination buoys convert ocean water to drinking water. Each buoy can produce 10m3 of drinking water per day, saving an estimated 34,000kg of CO2 per year. 

The Next Climate Tech Breakthrough May Have Already Happened, We Just Didn’t Notice- Earth Institute| Columbia University

15 Dec 2019

The president of the UN General Assembly says we have only 11 years to “prevent irreversible damage to our planet” from climate change. That’s a short deadline in which to prevent an existential crisis. The global community is desperate for solutions that prevent further environmental damage and help us adapt to life in a new climate.

To stay within the targeted limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, scientists insist that we need to reduce the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere, in addition to dropping new emissions to net-zero. The goal is to implement carbon dioxide removal strategies that capture carbon from the air and safely store it.

Existing CO2 removal technologies usually mimic natural biogeochemical processes that sequester carbon, or amplify the carbon-capturing qualities of the ocean, forests and sedimentary rocks. One method would fertilize phytoplankton in the ocean to increase the photosynthetic uptake of carbon. Another relies on crushing up carbon-absorbing rocks to increase their surface area, storage potential, and the rate of carbon removal.

Now, more than ever, there is a need for creative solutions, and these examples show that the next breakthroughs in sustainable development won’t come from Silicon Valley or scientific labs, but from Mother Nature.

The examples are as fascinating as they are absurd. The bullet trains in Japan reach nearly 200 mph thanks to the Kingfisher bird’s aerodynamic beak. Wind turbines are 20 percent more energy efficient when shaped like humpback whale fins, and termite mounds show architects how to improve building air conditioning systems. Industry giants like Seventh Generation are looking to beetles that spray poison to remake aerosol packaging. Swimsuits constructed like shark skin reduce drag so effectively that they were banned at the Olympics. Medical spaces are even applying the antimicrobial properties of shark skin to create sterile surfaces without producing antibacterial resistance.

Read More on Columbia University’s Earth Institute: https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2020/01/10/biomimicry-climate-sustainability/

Why the cities of the future are cellular– WEF

15 Nov 2019

We are facing a climate emergency. As the world wakes up to the catastrophic implications of climate change, it falls to national, state and especially municipal governments to take practical steps to prepare for the impacts.

But even the greenest cities are facing a grim reality. No matter what national governments and businesses do to reduce carbon emissions, massive climate disruption is unavoidable in the short to medium term. While firmly committed to decarbonizing, growing numbers of city leaders recognize some climate change is inevitable and they must be prepared to manage it. Some are actively exploring ways to design-in resilience, including redesigning, repurposing and retrofitting the built environment. While some cities are taking heroic steps to curb emissions and adapt their cities, it’s time they also start preparing for Plan B.

Preparing for Plan B is about adapting a mindset focused on smart, achievable and future-looking adjustments at the local level. We call this the cellular city. A cellular mindset involves hyper-localizing resilience and investing in self-sufficiency and adaptive regeneration. Cellular thinking requires every law, tax, zoning act, procurement policy, new building or purchasing decision to be embedded with local self-sufficiency, adaptability and resilience top of mind.

Building the cellular city means investing in, but moving beyond, mitigation and adaptation. It means acknowledging the “climate emergency” is a global reality, not a remote possibility. It requires seeing climate change as an opportunity for upgrading, retrofitting and re-purposing the urban landscape for a sustainable future. It will involve making investments in public and private buildings, so they are not only green and efficient, but also autonomous and self-sufficient.

The smartest cities are who invest in and subsidizing smarter public transport, electric vehicles, renewable energy plants and industrial symbiosis to promote a more circular economy, offering ideas on how to localize resilience and regenerative capacities at a granular scale.

While we must do everything we can to prevent climate change from spinning out of control, the cities that will weather the coming storm – will be cellular.

How big data can help us fight climate change faster– WEF

15 Jun 2019

From analyzing large data sets — or big data — we know that our planet lost the equivalent of 40 football fields per minute last year in tree cover. Big data can a help us tackle the problem, for example by locating harmful emissions or identifying pressure points along the supply chain.

When California Governor Jerry Brown announced in September that the US state would be launching “its own damn satellite” to monitor the effects of climate change, his promise was bold. California is taking local action to a global problem in the absence of federal leadership. The state will develop and eventually launch a satellite capable of detecting the “point source” of climate pollutants, monitoring leaks and other anomalies at specific locations.

The satellite, an initiative of the California Air Resources Board, will complement project partner Environmental Defense Fund’s MethaneSAT, scheduled for launch in 2021. The latter will provide broader, more frequent coverage, quantifying emissions from oil and gas fields producing at least 80% of global output roughly every four days.Combining data captured via satellite imagery and artificial intelligence to monitor forests and land use to provide the ‘where, why, when and who’.

Another example is the Trase platform, which connects independent data sources to reveal the trade flows for commodities such as beef, soy and palm oil which are responsible for an estimated two thirds of tropical deforestation. Using existing data such as customs records and trade contracts, tax registration data, production data and shipping data, Trase pieces together a bigger picture of how exports are linked to agricultural conditions in the places where they are produced.

Most recently, US climate change think tank Woods Hole Research Center is using a satellite-based tool to create a new global carbon monitoring map. The approach is “poised to transform how the world measures and tracks changes in forest carbon”.