The devastating aftermath of more frequent and intensive hurricanes, floods, and droughts has been the reality I have experienced during the last couple of decades as a humanitarian responder. Yet, no matter how much effort we put into improving the humanitarian response to this changed reality, the situation will only get worse, unless we start addressing the root causes of climate change.
Even though scientists repeatedly pointed out the potential effects of increased emissions of CO2, it was not until in the last few decades that the effects became so evident that we no longer could turn a blind eye towards the changes we are inflicting upon our planet. Yet, it was only when young people around the world, the generation that stands to inherit the troubles my generation caused, started protesting and speaking up, that a few politicians around the world started listening.
While governments around the world come up with ever more complex trading schemes for making us all believe that CO2 emissions from industries are being reduced, people around the world are trying to change their behaviors and consumption patterns to do their share in trying to reduce emissions. Even so, changing the behavior of a small section of the population of the world is not going to drive the reduction in emissions needed, we need true action from those doing the most of the polluting. That action must include a focus on fostering innovation in this space.
We must develop new and more environmentally friendly ways of generating electricity, making things, growing things, getting around, and staying cool/warm. All these sectors of human life must look towards emission-free innovation. Driving this innovation will be one of the biggest challenges we have faced as a species and we must foster rapid innovation that addresses the challenges faced by climate change. We need an innovation ecosystem that is built upon the principles of collaboration and a “let’s try it” mentality that is not bound by multiple layers of bureaucracy.
When it comes to generating electricity and heating our houses, Icelanders have been fortunate enough to be able to harness green solutions such as hydropower and geothermal power. Our experience in harnessing geothermal power has been “exported” to developing countries around the world, both in the form of education and consulting projects.
Living on an island that is still forming has led to a deep understanding of the geology underneath our feet. This in turn has fostered innovative carbon capture projects in Iceland, such as CarbFix, where CO2 emitted from industries is being turned into stone.
During the first months of the COVID pandemic, we saw the amazing effects of broad collaboration in driving the understanding of the virus and forming the basis for the creation of vaccines. We need to foster that same kind of collaborative effort to achieve what researchers at Stanford coined as “Collective Impact”, showcasing the fact that when organizations work together, their collective impact is greater than the sum of what each individual organization brings to the table.
That’s why new and innovative ways of addressing the challenges of climate change mustn’t be hampered by endless layers of bureaucracy that don’t understand the importance of the need to try new things. This is where a small and agile nation like Iceland can play a key role in fostering an ecosystem where flexibility is the key.
This is the first weekly article of many that I plan to write over the coming months about climate innovation. In these articles, I plan to discuss the key challenges and opportunities faced by those looking toward innovative efforts in the climate space. I also plan to give an insight into some of the innovative things that are happening in Iceland when it comes to climate solutions and why Iceland is an ideal place for climate innovation and how we who are in politics need to foster this growing innovative ecosystem.