Climate change offers opportunity

By on April 7, 2014

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s report on climate change was pretty apocalyptic, but the businesses that adapt now stand to make huge gains, writes Sophie Haslett is a climate scientist based at the University of East Anglia.

Drought. Floods. Violent conflict. The destruction of homes. Crop failure. The number of golfers soaring as heatwaves increase. These aren’t predictions; they’re already happening, according to the IPCC’s latest report, a two-volume tome on the impacts of climate change put together by 309 authors and citing over 12 000 publications.

It’s not like we haven’t heard it all before (except the golfers thing. The report actually does mention that) – but what’s interesting is the opportunities all this presents to businesses. Think of it like this: The businesses that really understand the challenges they face will be the ones winning in tomorrow’s marketplace.

And right now, the challenges are many and varied, particularly considering the fact that globally, we’re still pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at a rate even worse than the IPCC’s imagined worst-case-scenario.

For businesses, this is a huge opportunity. Recent storms and floods in the UK had a massive impact on industry and business. Flooded farms spelled mayhem for food production; powerlines came down, leaving 500 000 homes without electricity. Transport was disrupted, homes were flooded, small businesses were wiped out entirely.

The business that comes up with ways to prevent those things stands to do very well over the next few decades.

Running a business is all about understanding and managing risk. The risks we now face include unpredictable shifts in weather patterns that could ruin businesses. This is not a vision of a far-distant future – these are problems we’re seeing now and will see more of even over the next decade.

What are the opportunities?

The report focuses on adaptation – making sure we are prepared to deal with the changes that face us. For agriculture, this might mean testing more weather-resistant crops; for urban planners, investing in flood defences; for banks, choosing assets with climate change in mind.

Indeed, entire new markets will open up. This could be anything from consultancy on climate-related risk to taking on weather-resilient infrastructure projects. New avenues will open up for weather forecasting and insurance.

Many markets are already on their way. The International Energy Agency reckons energy from some renewables is about to become cheaper than fossil fuels. Which is good because fossil fuels are about to get even more expensive.

Renewable energy

While oil won’t run out completely in the next few decades, it’s becoming harder and more expensive to reach. This problem will only get worse – eventually we will have to rely on the elaborate, energy-intensive extraction of tar sands and oil shales to fill the gap.

As renewables become cheaper and policy stricter, investments in green transport and clean energy are starting to look more attractive. Investors who take the initiative and shift towards low-carbon technologies can and will lead a huge move towards the use of more efficient, cheaper, and cleaner energy in industry.

The lesson

What the IPCC offered us on Monday was a set of clear, dry, scientific facts about what we’re likely to face in the coming years. It’s now in the hands of governments and industry to start making some serious decisions about what they’re going to do with this information. The lesson? Those who take this report seriously and act on it are going to be the winners.

Mega cities 2014

Topco Media is hosting the Mega Cities Conference and Expo, focusing on modernising the cities of Africa. On 11 and 12 June, leaders from across the continent are attending the event to tackle Africa’s important socio-economic issues. With over 70 exhibition stands and numerous live technical demonstrations, the Conference and Expo will be focusing on the following key aspects:

  • ICT resources and solutions
  • Urbanisation
  • Town/house planning
  • Risk analysis and insurance
  • Water and sanitation
  • Mobility and transport


For more information on the event, visit  or contact Project Director Yusuf Seedat on 086 000 9590 or

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