How Climate Scale harnesses AI to help companies predict how they’ll be affected by climate change
What happens when a company builds a piece of outdoor infrastructure which is then compromised by climate change? That is one of the questions that Gil Lizcano, co-founder of Climate Scale, seeks to answer using AI-driven interpretations and predictions based on constantly updated complex data sets. Climate change creates significant and unpredictable ramifications for the climate all over the world, from unprecedented summertime rainfall in the Mediterranean in August 2022, to record high temperatures in western Europe in November 2022. Infrastructure and business models based on previous climate norms are becoming out of date. Lizcano’s company provides information to businesses and organisations on their exposure to the risks of our changing planet to aid infrastructure and investment decision making, including mitigation.
The tool Climate Scale uses to do this employs the power of Vortex technology, originally developed for online atmospheric modelling. Using Vortex, Climate Scale is able to physically downscale climate data to a resolution that can be utilized for local applications. Minute changes in the environment are fed into an artificial-intelligence computer model that can develop scenarios based on different pathways, affected by forecast future global emissions. “We have multiple climate models and various future climate scenarios which will impact various areas differently,” explains Lizcano.
Vortex was Lizcano’s company, developed in Spain 12 years ago. It offered “the first service providing information on wind energy at high resolution, usually for very technical people.” But two years ago, Lizcano, with his background in physics, realised that the same data that powered wind energy insights could also be used to address climate change. “There was now an opportunity to look to the future, facilitating information on future climate data instead of past, which we called Climate Scale.”
Climate Scale provides clients with data on the physical risks of climate change. “It is a continuing threat to the industry and the private sector is undergoing a transition,” comments Lizcano. “Companies need to understand how they need to move to a sustainable planet.” Climate Scale helps them achieve this by predicting the long-term climate dangers that may affect them. “They know for any location where they have their assets or investments, what risks they are subjected to – sea level rise, drought, winds, extreme heat, et cetera,” he continues.
Climate intelligence is a fast-growing business and the ability to peer into the future and head off the risks associated with a rapidly changing climate, such as potential reputational pitfalls, has proven a boon for companies. Lizcano describes two key buckets of Climate Scale users: those to whom the company can provide guidance and data to help them estimate how their cities, assets or overall business will be impacted by climate change; and engineers working in different sectors, particularly energy, who are factoring potential climate change into their decision-making processes.
Climate Scale’s starting point with a new client company is to have a broad conversation about their overall impact on the planet – and the planet’s impact on them. “We tell them what the risks are, and then we prefer them to continue the story with experts on mitigation and strategy as the companies often have the tools to tackle the problems internally.”
With clients in the energy sector already, Lizcano and his colleagues are looking elsewhere for Climate Scale’s next great use case. “We are now exploring the emerging demands in the financial sector for information as there is a requirement for them to disclose the risk and sustainability of their investments,” he says. “We tend to provide our information through consultants who process our data and provide the final analysis.”
It was while Lizcano was studying in Brazil that he experienced an El Niño event. This gave him the desire to better understand the world and leave it in as good a state as he found it. This personal passion drives him to keep growing the company, warning clients of their climate risk – and helping them head off the issues they themselves could be causing.
Biography / key highlights
1990 Earns degrees in physics and renewable energy
2007 Completes his PhD on atmospheric sciences and meteorology at University College London
Early 2000s Holds various roles in climate modelling and in the management and Commercialisation of large projects
From 2008 to date: R&D director at Vortex, where he has led the company’s development and commercialisation of cloud computing for industrial applications
2019 Founding partner of Climate Scale in Brussels, where he continues to work