With all the talk about climate change and global warming, Asheville is heating up as a front-runner to become the world headquarters for climate science.
Not many people know that Asheville’s federal building already houses the National Centers for Environment Information, which has stored all of the world’s climate data for the past 275 years. Besides the NCEI, other major climatology players in Asheville include the American Association of State Climatologists, the 14th Weather Squadron, and the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites.
And now The Collider, established in March 2016 as a nonprofit enterprise, seeks to attract tenants such as entrepreneurs, companies and organizations focused on convening and finding solutions to the many climate change issues. The Collider is a spacious group of offices, meeting rooms and open spaces on the fourth floor of the Wells Fargo Building overlooking Asheville’s Pritchard Park.
“There are thorny climate-related problems that many industries and communities are facing today, and our goal is to have climate experts get together under one roof and try to solve some of these really challenging issues,” says James McMahon, CEO of The Collider. “Our hope is that The Collider will eventually become known for its global reach in climate science innovation and collaboration, all while based in Asheville.”
The Sky’s the Limit
Meteorology experts believe climate science will eventually become a $1 trillion industry, with new products and technology invented and targeted toward adapting to climate change. One tenant that already has an office at The Collider is Acclimatise, a British-based consulting company whose accomplishments include helping Pakistan design roads that can withstand devastating monsoons.
“Other examples of climate-based innovations that companies at The Collider might come up with could include designing crops that can tolerate weather extremes, or working with engineers to build bridges that can withstand tornadoes, or constructing more efficient storm water systems for dealing with floods,” McMahon says. “Practically every industry that I’ve talked with has complex issues linked to the changing climate, and they realize that innovation and collaboration are needed like we are fostering at The Collider.”
Students Interested in Climate
Another tenant at The Collider is the National Environmental Modeling & Analysis Center, or NEMAC, which turns climate data into valuable information that private sector companies can use. The organization also helps attract more climate companies to Asheville. NEMAC is affiliated with the University of North Carolina Asheville, whose Atmospheric Sciences Department is getting more students interested in climate-based career paths and bachelor of science degrees in the field.
“We as a society are more weather-conscious and climate-conscious than ever, and many are predicting that Asheville will become an international hub of climate science,” says Jim Fox, director of NEMAC. “As a result, becoming a data scientist is one of the hottest new growth jobs in America, and we will also need computer programmers, engineers, software designers, web developers, digital mapping experts and savvy experts who know how to deal with risk and disasters.”
Fox points out that a number of UNC Asheville students are interning at The Collider.
“Students at UNC Asheville are enrolling in our climate program as a successful career path for themselves and to better the world, and they are going immediately into challenging, high-paying jobs upon graduation,” he says. “It’s an incredible time to be involved with climate science, and The Collider is certainly helping in the cause.”