#1 — A Journey From Architecture to Climate Change
Why Climate Change?
I was made aware of the facts behind climate change at Columbia University in 2009, while taking a mid-career Master’s degree at the School of International and Public Affairs. What I learned at school made me realize “mother earth” is a Titanic. We are the passengers and crew of this ship, not aware of the fatal destiny of this maiden voyage.
This is a complex subject with huge ramifications to civilization as we know it. The fact is that populations had been wiped out due to drought, flooding and other extreme weather events. We know historically that other ancient and now not so ancient, communities have abandoned their homes directly as a result of changes in environment or climate. Are we continuing to ignore the warning signs or are we like the passengers on the Titanic, unaware of our true fate? The captain saw the iceberg but did not grasp what lay beneath. We have studied climate science for decades, but we still do not fully grasp or are unable to face the science. Politicians are short sighted and it is difficult to maneuver this ship.
I decided there and then to devote my ingenuity and time to doing something about it.
Becoming an Entrepreneur for Climate Change
My learning curve was steep; I burned the midnight oil (yes, oil, because my home was fueled by oil still). I read everything I could, attended conferences around the world and mused on how I could bring in a few shackles and also provide a school for other budding climate change enthusiasts.
I am an optimist by nature and am filled with a wholehearted sense of “must do” and “can do”. One needs to be confident, clever, disciplined and stay the course as an entrepreneur. I have been an entrepreneur before and was not daunted by the tasks in-hand.
With UN Rwanda ambassador at a UN meeting.
It slowly dawned on me that measurement and results matter. Accurate measurement can drive solutions. I decided that three things had to be done:
- We had to provide accurate, fraud-proof measurement of cause and effect
- We had to make the results available to the public
- We needed to figure out an economic way to supply 1 and 2
Keep that in mind, I founded two companies: Carbon Credit Capital and Climate.IQ.
The former measures the greenhouse gas emitted by small and medium-sized companies with a focus on retail products. By offsetting the emissions, the product becomes “carbon-neutral”, which can sway a customer’s purchase decision.
Climate.IQ measures the climate risks associated with properties and communities. The idea has evolved over the past few years. My first foray into this complex field came about when the company was asked to measure the carbon sequestration of a huge area (1 million hectares) of Amazon Forest. By using models together with satellite imagery and then laying in the price of timber and carbon offsets realized, we developed an automated system to reveal the carbon sequestration value of the forest. It became obvious that precision in measurement could drive trade and more specifically, provide the purchaser of a carbon offset the details necessary to know what they were buying.
About to fly over the Amazon forest to investigate the carbon sequestration capability of the Forest.
Climate.IQ Coming Into Shape
I have applied this experience now to Climate.IQ. The concept from the start was to use similar thinking as to accurately measure the specific effects of climate change across the U.S., to firstly the built infrastructure. This broad term would apply to property and public roads, bridges, and parks, for example. I now have a team tasked with its development. The rationale behind the focus was assisted with supported reports produced by numerous, well-respected organizations and the US Federal government. We quickly realized that we were looking at trillions of dollars of public and private assets that were at risk.
Our team pointed out the shortcomings of Federally-funded solutions and also other existing methods. With knowledge, discipline, and technology, we allow users to use our alpha web-based system to receive a brief climate risk score against a specific property, a bridge, a road or a park. We have mapped and fully integrated the models for flooding, wildfire, drought, heat wave, hail, hurricane, tornado, winter storm and earthquake. We plan to provide this at a low cost to the public, professionals and government agencies.
The Entrepreneurship Spirit
The entrepreneurial journey continues, but as the Founder, I remain committed to my main principles which are:
- Strive to make a practical difference in this world of climate change unpredictability, using knowledge and technology.
- Educate the public and arm them with what they need to know to protect themselves
- Bring on the next younger generation of professionals on this very important issue
- Have fun doing it!
It is certainly not always fun; the risks associated with building start-ups can be onerous, but, unlike the crew and passengers of that great ship; I am determined to make our population aware of the dangers that lie ahead and arm them to the best of my ability. I am fortunate enough now to have a team to work with.
Stay tuned for more bulletins on how this start-up is solving some of its complex problems and making decisions along the way. It has been a fascinating journey so far.
About the Author
Olivia is the founder and President of Climate.IQ. She has a 30-year history of entrepreneurship. In 1989, she founded Fussell Development Corp., a residential real estate development and Construction Company based in New York City. In 2006, she founded Carbon Credit Capital LLC.
Olivia also managed Pro-Natura, U.S. an NGO tackling social, economic and environmental problems that face rural communities in the Developing World with headquarters in Paris.
Olivia holds a Masters in International Affairs, from Columbia University with an emphasis on Environmental Finance; A Masters in Landscape Architecture with an emphasis on Land Use Planning, from Harvard; and a Bachelor’s of Science, from London University in Landscape Design, Planning, and Development. She grew up in Africa and the UK and has travelled the globe extensively.