Bloomberg's Risky Business Project starts the conversation around big data and climate

by Good Company • September 29th, 2015
  • risky business blog post



This Thursday GoodCompany Ventures joined the Risky Business Project Climate Data Summit chaired by Michael Bloomberg, Hank Paulson and Tom Steyer as part of New York’s Climate Week. Led by thought leaders in climate, policy and business, the summit focused on the accumulated, accessible data and the innovative solutions happening (or needing to happen) within the field. GoodCompany attended in coincidence with the launch of Climate Ventures 2.0, our upcoming accelerator addressing global climate threats. Our accelerator will offer data and technical recourses to mobilize entrepreneurial responses. The summit acted as an opportunity to learn more about the field and discuss the gap between collected data and business innovation. 


The day’s agenda opened with a relevant, perhaps rudimentary discussion on the distinction between weather and climate data. What is the difference? Panelists and guest speakers alike debated that answer. 


Richard Rood, Dow Sustainability Distinguished Fellow & Professor at University of Michigan, responded succinctly: “Generally 10 years of weather data is considered climate.” 


Others argued that the answer is irrelevant. Jay Koh, Managing Director and Partner at Siguler Guff, said, “Most lay persons don’t make any difference between the two.” 


Lindene Patton, Global Head of Hazard Product Development at CoreLogic added, “My bottom line is, who cares? There is a communication challenge here. We need to convince people that there is action they can take on climate change.” 


Those on the panel could agree: only so much reliable climate data exists. How the community quantifies uncertainty will become a hugely important factor when predicting future results. 


Our founder, Garrett Melby, led the ensuing panel on climate risk modeling and reinsurance. He opened the discussion asking panelists how forward-thinking climate change projections affect historically-based catastrophe modeling and reinsurance. 


Megan Linkin, Vice President of Global Partnerships at SwissRe, argued that there is now a change in perspective on climate studies. Where once climate data and research was sequestered to academic discussions, information is now being used for business innovation. 


Though data is now more readily available, Jay Koh noted that the information needs to be translated for market demand: “How far are we from the Zillow of house risk?”


Climate data and the climate change cause, the panelists agreed, needs to provide benefit to individuals. Can a school, a highway, a mortgage be protected through climate insurance? If yes, then individuals might take notice. 


As the summit continued, that sentiment was reiterated. Climate change still holds political and human uncertainty. Many individuals a simple reminder that, yes, climate change is in fact relevant and dangerous. 


Tech solutions and business opportunities were also on the table at the day’s summit. John Crowley, Project Manager of Data for Climate Action for UN Global Pulse, led a discussion on best practices for applying climate data within the tech industry. Accessibility is a must, panelists said. Tools such as data mapping have been previously implemented to provide a clear and comprehensible source for climate change. 


Our own Catherine Griffin led a panel discussion on investment opportunities, a topic that had not yet been touched upon at the round table. 


Lindene Patton put the solution to business innovation simply: “Follow the risk and then follow the money.”


Panelists contended that economic demand must be a key factor in creating scalable solutions. 


“One of the important aspects of this discussion is that we have several different demands here,” Jay Koh said. “We need to aggregate that demand and show that there are dollars at the end of a particular supply chain.”


While climate data and technology is available, the markets and entrepreneurs are not. To conclude the discussion and our evening, Garrett proposed a solution to the consortium: social entrepreneurs, some of which will be joining our Climate Ventures 2.0 class. 


“I really believe so wholeheartedly in the engine of entrepreneurship to take problems that once seemed insurmountable and create profitable solutions.”

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