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Seequent Segment Director for the Environment, Thomas D. Krom, shares insights following his attendance at 2023’s COP28 UAE, an international gathering of leaders, policymakers and experts known as a ‘Conference of Parties’ (COP) to confront climate change.

At a halfway point between the 2015 signing of the Paris Agreement and its 2030 goals, COP28 provided an opportunity to refocus priorities and fast-track the global response to Earth’s critical climate challenges.

‘Underfinanced. Underprepared. Inadequate investment and planning on climate adaptation leaves the world exposed,’ reads the UN Environment Program’s Adaptation Gap Report 2023.

While, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risks Report 2024: critical changes to Earth systems are the most severe science challenges we face today. And, Climate Reanalyzer indicates January 2024 had the highest level ever recorded globally for the 2-metre surface air temperature.

Despite the grim statistics, I remain hopeful about our future, as with the help of innovative technologies, we can tackle some of these challenges and risks. However, implementing these innovations will require collective action at many levels as well as new ways of thinking and doing, especially for how we value and perceive the world around us.

Hard decisions need to be made and since we don’t have the time and money to do everything we ultimately desire, we need to keep a focus on the endgame: a more secure and resilient future for us and especially for future generations.

Underpinning all of these climate change challenges is my main mantra: a better understanding of the underground is the foundation for a sustainable, resilient future.

Making the energy transition economically efficient requires ‘getting ore out of the ground’. Resilient infrastructure requires dealing with the changing underground challenges that will arise from changing water levels due to aquifer exploitation, sea level rise or flooding.

Resilient cities need water that is not polluted or salty and all while ensuring they don’t sink the city. And everyone deserves infrastructure that lies on a solid foundation – from a better understanding of the underground.

Our goal as software providers is to create tools that make adaptation and mitigation more cost-effective, essentially lowering that barrier to entry.

This is critically important, especially regarding the infrastructure challenges in the Global South. If we can use an approach where we reduce risk on those projects and also increase productivity, hopefully, we can do much more with the same resources available to us.

Seequent Segment Director for the Environment Thomas D. Krom speaks at 2023’s COP28 UAE.

Seequent Segment Director for the Environment, Thomas D. Krom,
speaks at 2023’s COP28 UAE.

A key message I took from WEF’s Risk report is humanity’s collective realisation that Earth Science-based risks are the most severe challenges we currently face. And, in line with the findings and analysis presented in the Adaptation Gap report, the top four risks for long-term severity (with three of the four expected to worsen) relate to our Earth systems.

  • Extreme weather events
  • Critical change to Earth Systems
  • Biodiversity loss. Ecosystem collapse
  • Natural resource shortages

For me, another interesting observation is the influence diagrams throughout the report that highlight the interconnectivity for each of the top risks and risk categories. It is very moving to see how Earth Science risks have such large effects on other things like health, critical infrastructure and more.

It also highlights that significant risks remain as adaptation is unlikely to accelerate significantly in the next decade, particularly in the most ‘climate-vulnerable economies,’ partly due to the sheer scope of infrastructure investment needs.

Seequent Segment Director for the Environment Thomas D. Krom speaks at 2023’s COP28 UAE.

Too much. Too little. Too polluted – Thomas D. Krom discusses the global issue of
water security and water quality.

Given this situation and what I would call a lack of political leadership at a global level to advance dramatic change, the window of opportunity for timely action is diminishing.

The Adaption Gap report documents that in the near future we will incur much higher costs since we are delaying the timely implementation of cost-effective mitigation, this delay leads to a lost opportunity as well as increased challenges in the future.

In other words, much more costly alternatives will need to be used for mitigation, or worse – remediation, for CO2 and other greenhouse gases at a later date. It is just like healthcare; prevention is much cheaper than treating the illness.