September 11, 2009 / 7:13 PM / 10 years ago

Climate adaptation brings investment bets

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - While many companies and policy-makers search for ways to lessen the impact of global warming, some are looking at technologies for climate adaptation — how to minimize the impact of climate change already set in motion.

At the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in San Francisco, company executives, policy-makers and venture capitalists gave their thoughts on what sectors would be good investment bets in a hotter, drier world. Here’s a look:

Steven Chan, chief strategy officer for China’s solar panel maker Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd STP.N:

“If you’re able to do water purification with some sort of energy source that’s not conventional, that could be an industry that is very strong. I think the world would need something like that.”

Carl Pope, executive director at Sierra Club:

“There are two pathways available to solve this problem and we have a preference. One is the engineering pathway ... We’re going to build sea walls around Miami. We’re going to have to do some of that, but we actually think that natural systems are more resilient and we ought to be investing much more heavily in using natural systems to protect human communities.”

John Woolard, chief executive of privately held solar thermal company BrightSource Energy Inc:

“Energy efficiency is going to be a really big push in the United States and around the world and there’s a lot that we haven’t done yet on that. So the leaders in energy efficiency will be a very real category. There are some out there that do demand response. There are some that do automated meter reading. There are some that do pure energy efficiency but I think those are all real interesting categories.”

Tom Werner, chief executive of San Jose, California-based solar power company SunPower Corp SPWRA.O:

“I don’t understand this idea that global warming is an economic catastrophe. Global warming is an economic stimulus. What does Silicon Valley do? They find problems and solve them and monetize them. So what a great opportunity to lower carbon footprints, to improve efficiency and to find ways to adapt ... Silver Spring Networks as an example to help utilities better utilize the power that already exists ... There are other things you’re going to see, but there are not companies to name yet. The world environment does change over time ... So the agriculture will be substantially different. Another whole industry is electric cars.”

Mary Nichols, chair of California’s Air Resources Board:

“The thing I am most interested in using more of is advanced mapping systems. I think geographical mapping systems that use of layers of data to display in a graphic and visual fashion what changes could occur and what they would mean is a very very powerful tool.”

Stephan Dolezalek, managing director of Silicon Valley venture capital firm VantagePoint Venture Partners:

“As much as on a personal level we care about global warming, it isn’t something that we use as a driver for investment. So the reason we focused on cleantech had almost nothing to do with global warming. It had everything to do with third-world industrialization ... So we’ve made no investments. on the carbon sequestration side. We’ve made no investments on carbon trading because the global warming proposition is one of those policy things that kind of comes and goes. It’s far less predictable than the notion that populations are going to grow, they’re going to industrialize and they’re going to want to access the finite resources. That’s highly predictable, reliable and isn’t going away. For us it’s a much much safer investment theme.”

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