Climate Change: Creating an Abundance of Private Sector Opportunities
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
The effects of climate change present daunting challenges for government at all levels. And, it’s only going to get worse.
According to a July 2016 report from the RAND Corporation, roads, bridges and seawalls will require ongoing attention because of the ravages of weather, population growth and age-related issues. While the issues are increasingly worrisome, the potential for groundbreaking collaboration between public and private sector partners is abundant. Companies able to provide efficient and cost-effective infrastructure solutions will find business opportunities in the near future for projects that represent hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.
Confronted by extreme weather over the last two decades, public officials now recognize the real-world effects of climate change and they are grappling with solutions. In 2014, for the first time, the National Climate Assessment addressed infrastructure issues related to climate change. The report found that rapidly changing weather poses threats to every kind of infrastructure in the United States. That includes utilities, parks and public facilities, universities, hospitals, prisons, community housing and transit. Severe storms, rising sea levels, damaging water surges, extreme heat and icing events are among the primary effects of climate change.
The climate change problem is particularly urgent in coastal areas, where some of the most densely populated and fastest-growing communities are located. Rising sea levels and violent storm surges in these areas threaten roadways, rail lines, energy infrastructure, airports, port facilities and military bases. Major storms have increased substantially in the United States, most notably in the heavily populated Northeast. This part of the country experienced a 71 percent increase in extreme weather events.
Extreme heat also brings grave risks. Rising temperatures cause spikes in electricity use, often causing major blackouts. Heat also damages transportation infrastructure, softening paved roads and causing buckling of surface rail lines. As average temperatures increase, utility infrastructure must be fortified to handle the increasingly high demands of power required for air conditioners.
The concerns are complicated, and possible solutions will involve many different technologies and various types of expertise. To combat the effects of heat, some roads will require resurfacing with more durable materials. Adapting bridge infrastructure to flooding events could cost $140 billion to $250 billion over the next 50 years. Maritime shipping patterns will change in response to rising sea levels and new storm patterns, so ports will be impacted as well. Inland waterways must accommodate changing water levels caused by droughts and flooding. Coastal roads and railways will require barriers or relocation.
Firms positioned to profit from the multi-billion-dollar bounty of infrastructure opportunities will be expected to bring innovative, cost-efficient solutions to public officials. They should also be prepared to accept and respect the culture and the environment of government executives who will be struggling to develop complicated engagement agreements while also balancing budgets, providing essential services, mitigating weather-related problems and satisfying constituents. None of it is easy, and when everything converges at the same time, it is a bewildering experience for both sectors. However, insightful public officials and wise business leaders have proven for decades the benefits of successful collaborations.
Recent news from Florida illustrates how new collaborations will likely begin to take shape. Miami Beach officials began negotiations in July to develop a public-private partnership for a light-rail streetcar line along the famous South Beach district. An increasingly popular tourist destination, Miami Beach, is plagued with frequent flooding that threatens to restrict future growth. Conversations are occurring now with potential private-sector partners who have solutions for consideration. In an ever-changing world, scenarios just like this will be played out hundreds of times in the near future.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
People seem frequently to assume that the terms “sustainability” and “resilience” are synonyms, an impression reinforced by the frequent use of the term “climate resilience”, which seems to enmesh both concepts firmly. In fact, while they frequently overlap, and indeed with good policy and planning reinforce one another, they are not the same. This article picks them apart to understand where one ends and the other begins, and where the “sweet spot” lies in achieving mutual reinforcement to the benefit of disaster risk reduction (DRR).
As extreme weather conditions become the new normal—from floods in Baton Rouge and Venice to wildfires in California, we need to clean and save stormwater for future use while protecting communities from flooding and exposure to contaminated water. Changing how we manage stormwater has the potential to preserve access to water for future generations; prevent unnecessary illnesses, injuries, and damage to communities; and increase investments in green, climate-resilient infrastructure, with a focus on communities where these kinds of investments are most needed.
A few years ago, I worked with some ARISE-US members to carry out a survey of small businesses in post-Katrina New Orleans of disaster risk reduction (DRR) awareness. One theme stood out to me more than any other. The businesses that had lived through Katrina and survived well understood the need to be prepared and to have continuity plans. Those that were new since Katrina all tended to have the view that, to paraphrase, “well, government (city, state, federal…) will take care of things”.
While the experience after Katrina, of all disasters, should be enough to show anyone in the US that there are limits on what government can do, it does raise the question, of what could and should public and private sectors expect of one another?