Using the IoT as a solution for climate change adaptation

Last June was the wettest on record in the Netherlands, with more than 200mm of rain. At the same time, it was also the hottest June ever globally. This is a clear sign of the changing climate. The average temperature on Earth is 1.3C higher than it was 30 years ago. And experts say that every degree of temperature rise leads to a 7 percent increase in humidity. It’s likely that this trend will continue, so we will see more and more heavy rainstorms in the Netherlands.

Using the IoT as a solution for climate change adaptation

Last month, I was invited to speak at the UNFCCC NAP Expo in Bonn. The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. NAP stands for National Adaptation Plans, which, in this context, means adaptation to climate change. Countries all over the world are developing plans to cope with the effects of climate change. This convention was organized by the Least Developed Countries Experts Group, being an important follow-up to the Paris COP22 climate agreement. Many of the developing countries are confronted with natural disasters such as floods and drought, as a consequence of climate change.

I took part in a session about the role of ICT in climate change adaptation, together with speakers from Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, and Fujitsu. In my presentation, I decided to highlight the role of the Internet of Things (IoT) in creating solutions that allow us to cope with climate change. Ericsson is involved in a number of pilots, so I was able to pick a few concrete examples. In Germany, Ericsson is involved in connected vineyards; through the use of sensors, agricultural processes are optimized according to real-time data about temperature and humidity of the soil and the air. This also allows the wine farmers to adapt to gradually changing conditions.

A second pilot we are conducting is connected mangroves in Malaysia. Mangroves are an important ecosystem to protect against floods and to reduce the force of tsunamis. Newly planted mangrove woods are monitored on a continuous basis, to protect the trees and to warn for disasters. And a third example is our involvement in the connected water project in Atlanta. Climate change will have a huge effect on the availability of drinking water, so the measurement of water quality will become increasingly important. Sensors will play an essential role in improving processes and reducing cost in water quality management.

These pilots are just a few examples to trigger the imagination of what the IoT can do to help us cope with the changing climate conditions. But it should not be based on a technology push. These pilots are just a stage in an overall stepwise approach. National Adaptation Plans should contain a long-term vision where the role of ICT is recognized. And the involvement of all stakeholders and partners is essential before a pilot can be carried out. After a successful evaluation of the pilot, a decision can then be made to scale up.

In Region Western and Central Europe, Ericsson is accelerating the approach toward various industry verticals. I expect that we will see several more IoT projects in the near future. Some will help to reduce CO2 emissions, while some others will help us deal with climate change. Either way, ICT will definitely help to achieve Climate Action – the UN’s 13th Sustainable Development Goal.

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