Businesses central to adaptation

Posted Aug. 25, 2010, at 9:44 p.m.

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. The economic, social and political implications are tremendous. Undertaking meaningful efforts for society to adapt to climate change is of paramount importance.

But with every challenge comes opportunity. By including investments in “adaptation” to climate change in U.S. climate and energy policy, we will expand opportunities for American businesses and workers to tap into the growing global demand for adaptation-related technologies and services.

What is “adaptation” and why is it important to all of us? Simply put, adaptation is about improving the ability of communities to “adapt” or adjust to current and future climate change impacts (like extreme weather events or changes in regional weather patterns). Without any adaptation skills or resources, the impacts of climate change could devastate vulnerable areas and local economies.

But, with the necessary tools and know-how, these same communities can become stronger, more prepared and better able to bounce back when the repercussions of climate change create disruptions in their access to clean water, in their ability to grow enough food, in the safety of their homes and in their ability to sustain their economies. Ultimately, this means healthier people, stronger economies and fewer conflicts both at home and abroad. And this is good for all of us.

This summer, the Senate began their August recess without action on climate change. Luckily for Maine, we have two leading Republican senators who grasp how problematic climate change is for our country and the world if left unaddressed.

Still, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins need to hear from businesses and concerned citizens that passing a climate change bill this year is crucial to helping our economy transition to clean energy while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. They need to hear our support for investing in the adaptation of vulnerable communities here in the States and around the world.

Consider this: Maine businesses have a wealth of technical expertise and services to offer in helping people and natural systems increase resiliency and decrease vulnerability to changing weather patterns. That makes those companies well-positioned to be at the heart of adaptation efforts and capitalize on the exploding demand, (however unfortunate) for a new adaptation marketplace.

For example, widespread water scarcity from California to Ethiopia is one of the leading problems exacerbated by increasing droughts and floods caused by climate change. By 2020, water scarcity will affect as many as 250 million people. Maine companies that work in water resource management are in a good position to offer much-needed services, including water quality optimization, water use planning, watershed management, water storage, land management, ecosystem restoration, and storm water management.

Climate change is not going away. Business investment, know-how and technology will be essential to our eventual success in adapting to it. Because of their ability to optimize resources, enhance performance, and develop and commercialize new technologies, business is an essential partner in the struggle.

For example, with support, vulnerable communities can invest in a variety of projects that build their resilience to climate change. To address drought conditions, communities can install low-cost water collecting devices, adopt innovative water conservation techniques, and implement measures to optimize water quality and protect existing supplies. To protect against flooding, communities can install coastal tree barriers, restore riparian and wetland habitats, install bio-stabilization structures and improve storm water management.

As Mainers, we are known for finding innovative solutions to difficult problems. Developing the tools and expertise needed for global adaptation to climate change is one such opportunity. Maine employers across a broad range of industries, including water management, agriculture, construction, insurance and information services stand poised to apply their resources and expertise to the task of helping vulnerable communities and ecosystems adapt to climate change. By developing and tapping these Maine resources we can spur significant innovation and job creation in Maine and throughout the country.

Working together, Mainers and the rest of the country can protect people and the environment while creating jobs and helping to revitalize our economy. That’s a winning combination and Maine businesses stand ready to support this important priority.

Stacia Hoover is a project scientist at Kleinschmidt Associates in Pittsfield.

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