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Special Feature

Helping businesses cope with climate change risks

  • from Shaastra :: vol 03 issue 03 :: Apr 2024
Three months before Hurricane Ian hit Florida, U.S., on September 28, 2022, a start-up flagged the potential risk from the storm.

Start-ups and other platforms in an emerging niche field are helping businesses prepare for risks arising from climate change.

In September 2022, Hurricane Ian made furious landfall on the beach of Fort Myers in Florida, U.S. Three months before that, Chandra Kishtawal — working two oceans away, in Ahmedabad — had flagged the potential risk from the storm. In 2020, after working for 30 years as a scientist with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Kishtawal had begun lending his expertise in weather modelling to a nascent, U.S.-based start-up called ClimateAi, co-founded by Stanford University and Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur graduate Himanshu Gupta. The platform helps businesses adapt their operations based on artificial intelligence (AI) models of weather forecasting.

Florida has always been a hurricane-prone area. However, ClimateAi predicted a risk that was twice as high as the usual threat. It mapped out the probability and intensity of the impact along the coast, including wind speeds and rainfall, and shared these insights with its client, a roofing materials manufacturer. "Because of the insights we gleaned from our model, the company was able to estimate the raw material required and prepare itself for the hurricane's landfall," says Kishtawal, who retired as Group Director of the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Group at ISRO's Space Applications Centre.

The warning helped the company procure its supplies much before its competitors and speed up the production of the roofing materials. "… (But) it also means an accelerated recovery time for people on the ground, looking to rebuild their homes and livelihoods," says David Farnham, who, as the Director of Data Science at ClimateAi, was working closely with Kishtawal. Soon after that, ClimateAi secured $22 million in Series B funding.

This new niche in the field of climate tech — called 'climate-proofing' businesses — has tech groups seeking to mitigate the impact of climate change on business operations. In 2022, software and media company Bloomberg announced a partnership with data and tech company riskthinking.AI; the two combined their respective datasets of factories and climate change projections to assess risks posed to individual companies by climate scenarios such as floods, droughts and wildfires. In the U.K., research at the Centre for Risk Studies at the University of Cambridge has paved the way for a climate-tech start-up called Risilience. Zurich-based Carbon Delta is another player. Co-funded by the European Union, it evaluates agro-food companies and climate resilience.


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