Climate change is forcing the commercial real estate industry to re-think the effectiveness of flood insurance that developers, lenders and investors have relied

What are the business opportunities of climate change for startups?

For each effect of climate change there is a money making opportunity, which is why the necessary transformation will be beneficial:

Global warming reduction:

There are a bunch of great technologies and industries emerging which are shifting us away from burning fossil fuels for electrical generation and transportation.

  • Wind energy – Generating electricity from the wind is a huge industry globally. Where there are huge industries there are middle men, specialized equipment, emergent niches and the like. Blade coatings are big. SCADA monitoring and optimizing is big. Lidar nanometers are big. Doppler radar wind analysis is big. Lots of great stuff there.
  • Solar energy – Utility-scale solar in the US outgrew rooftop in 2012 if memory serves. Utility-scale solar requires racks, trucks, logistics, maintenance services, cleaning, monitoring, etc. Utility-scale rooftop on warehouses and big box stores has barely started up, and there’s a good niche there.
  • Electricity storage – While this grid problem is overstated and somewhat distant from a large scale commercialization perspective, there’s a very big focus on it. There’s a great deal of money floating around as people see the need to get in early in the nascent industry. Some have already found their actual niche like LightSail Energy, whose pressurized containers are being used for methane gas storage, not compressed air electricity storage as they originally thought.
  • Lake- and ocean-side cooling – This is likely the biggest energy use of water-based energy systems which aren’t offshore wind. There’s a great deal of room in the market for district heating and cooling schemes such as Toronto’s Enwave approach.
  • Geothermal heating and cooling for buildings – This is also straightforward and cost effective for organizations that own their real estate as opposed to leasing it. There’s a good market to be had, and the skills of drilling are widely available on the market with the oil and gas downturn right now. The challenge might be that if the price of oil rockets again you would lose drillers, but many would come to appreciate the generally better working conditions of geothermal.
  • Electric car dealerships – An Ontario entrepreneur has created the first all electric, multi-brand retail and online sales outlet. Traditional dealerships are very poorly positioned to sell electrics, so there’s a good niche.
  • Electric car charging infrastructure – Multiple competing standards exist and an organization which certified in all of them in a region and maintained an installation staff could do very well with municipal, Tesla and other customers having them hammer in the infrastructure.
  • Tidal and Wave energy – This is a tough field with enormous challenges. There are no middle man positions in it, but there are many interesting initial products. If a firm could make this effectively, they would have an excellent niche in archipelagos where electricity is very expensive and wave energy could be abundant. As one example, there are 6,000 inhabited islands in Indonesia alone, and a majority of them are still using diesel and oil generation.

Adaptation:

Given disregard and slow movement on the global warming file since the science became certain in the 1970’s, there are going to be significant negative impacts due to climate change that will require adaptation approaches.

  • Flooding – Seaside and enhanced rain areas are going to see a lot more flooding. Mitigation technologies include sandbags, berm emplacements, pumps, drying fans, drywall replacement, waste disposal, waste water remediation, shallow draft rescue boats and the like. Lots of small- and large-scale opportunities there.
  • Drought – This comes with a raft of side issues and typically a very long history. Places susceptible to drought such as California have decades of nasty legal dealing related to water rights. Legal training with a focus on water rights is going to be growth industry globally, so that’s one opportunity. Technical consulting on drought resistant crops, landscaping and infrastructure are others. Firefighting is going to increase in drought stricken areas, so building effective teams and technologies has potential.
  • Crop migration – Agriculture is already seeing substantial shifts northward of key crops. Arable land assessments, designed organisms for increased heat tolerance, agricultural consulting for adaptation and others are growth areas.
  • Endangered species migration – Many endangered plant and animal species are in pocket zones with no migration paths to viable zones elsewhere. As the climate changes, they will increasingly be isolated and unable to migrate themselves. There’s a missing service on the market for assisted migration of endangered species. Very niche, but also very broad and becoming larger. I read a Masters thesis on plant biology in BC recently which made it clear how difficult adaptation will be naturally for many species under the accelerated climate change we are currently seeing.

Exploitation:

Where there’s change and fear, there are scum-sucking venal assholes. You could be one of them.

  • Seaside flooding is going to be more common in many regions. Where there is transformation there are buy-low sell under caveat emptor opportunities. Ethically iffy, but occurring today along much of the east coast of the USA as poorer owners who can’t afford to replace seaside homes on for example the Outer Banks are displaced by rich people who consider replacing the home entirely every three to five years to be a reasonable expense.
  • Climate change denialist organizations are always happy to pay people to spread disinformation. Have a degree in a related field and no ethics? Go suck on the Koch teat for a while. Expect academic censure and general public disgust at your venal behaviour. But you’ll get to have drinks with Willie Soon. Oh, your kids will hate you too.
  • General woo spreading. Never underestimate the willingness of a subset of the populace to part with their cash for nebulous promises of angelic intervention, the efficacy of distilled water, prayer and the like. After all, there are actual businesses selling pet care taking insurance to Rapture believers where the staff are purportedly atheists who won’t be called to Jeebus.