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Cool Technologies for a Warming Planet

After a short break, we thought we would return with some positive news.

While there is of course no silver bullet for addressing the risk of climate change, new and improved technologies can go a long way in increasing climate resiliency (and resiliency in general) for the present and the future.

We recently came across a few on the twittersphere that are worth mentioning.  (Stay tuned for a more extensive look at this topic next week). In no particular order of coolness, here are some technologies worth reading about.

  • Buoys that measure fluctuations in the oceans:  Despite its well-known role as critical carbon sink, protein provider, transport route, global temperature regulator, and a number of other core functions, the ocean still holds many mysteries for scientists. A great way to hasten the learning process about oceans, and to better understand important phenomena, such as the changing conditions within a rapidly shifting Arctic, is to have instruments that float in the ocean collecting data. The idea is not new. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, among others, has been working on it for decades. Making sure that these institutions and agencies have sufficient budgets for the research is a big part of the equation. (H/T Heidi Cullen via Twitter)
  • Robots that measure hurricanes: Each hurricane season brings a season of amplified discussion on the possible connections between climate change and these intemperate one-eyed meteorological monsters.  There is no debate, however, about how destructive they can be. Better understanding the intensity and frequency of hurricanes can go a long way towards helping communities prepare for and prevent disasters.  Grist has a nice write-up on “the brave little solar-powered robot who’s helping us understand hurricanes.” (more on the robot here). We used to rely on a small number of brave humans with figurative nerves of steel to do the job (see Jeffrey Master’s harrowing accountof his flight through the eye of Hurricane Hugo). Literal nerves of steel might be even better.
  • Water pipelines via helicopter: Millions of people lack access to clean water.  After a disaster, even those with a regular supply of water can face sudden disruptions.  While providing water is an important factor in maintaining security and stability, quickly building pipelines over many miles and difficult terrain is a Herculean task.  The folks at Tubing Operations for Humanitarian Logistics are working on a methodto essentially move water from the source to the population, or point of use, by essentially installing a water pipeline by rolling it out from a spool attached to a helicopter.The idea of using air transport for building small-scale infrastructure seems underutilized in general, and is definitely worth more exploration.  The “Matternet” aims to do just this by supplementing road-based transport with transport via unmanned aereal vehicles (UAWs). Imagine a UAW the size of a large bird that is capable of lifting and transporting objects around places that have no reliable roads, and you’ll have an idea of how this works.

We look forward to watching these technologies advance, and scale-up. It’s also comforting to know that they are only the tip of the iceberg (bad pun intended –it’s Saturday, so we’re allowed).


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