Today the most far-reaching problem that requires our heightened focus is the adversity of climate change. The greatest drawback of technological advancement is the imbalance imposed on the environment leading to an increase in earth’s average temperature and an overall climate change that has a deadly domino effect on various ecosystems including our Oceans.
Are we doing enough to address these issues by adopting sustainable development as rapidly as we can? Can technology save us, and what are the climate-technology breakthroughs for a sustainable future? Climate experts are giving optimistic responses to get the world to zero emissions by 2050, but there is a need for urgent action.
Climate change touches everything from geopolitics to business to our quality of life. The question is who should fix this problem- the state or the private sectors or is it the responsibility of every individual. The preamble of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) notes: “… the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions.”
Given the stakes, companies are taking a step forward towards sustainable development by embedding progressive plans to achieve a bigger purpose, rather than just gaining commercial outcomes, into the DNA of their business. Going forward corporate thought leaders need to sidestep the mired conventional discourses about how to run a business and look beyond regular discourses on how to “give back” to society. They need to look inward and come up with genuine alternatives & solutions that can create large-scale impact. For instance, before COVID-19 no one would have believed that working from home could actually work out…why didn’t we think of it sooner?
So, perhaps, instead of simply adhering to mandatory environmental regulations and believing the ‘job is done’ – it’s time for the Corporate World to lead the global effort to roll back the damage we’ve caused. The biggest weapon we have is Technology itself.
Apart from participating in overall improvements being made across all Industries like moving to green energy sources, adopting carbon-negative technologies, and evolving sustainable supply chains- the IT industry, and more specifically emerging digital technologies like faster internet, the cloud, the internet of things (IoT), cognitive, digital reality, and blockchain, can play a pivotal role in tracking, measuring, and reporting the impact of our actions (both positive and negative) on the environment, which is critical to success. Thanks to the easy access to digital, leveraging a seamless connection across the world that allows for having important information on time. The availability of data through AI further helps to take prioritized actions on urgent affairs. After all, if we can’t connect the dots and understand what’s working and what’s not – we can’t hope to move the needle.
Let’s investigate some technological shifts the business community could take up to combat the unprecedented challenge of climate change.
The paradigm shift to digital technology to protect the environment.
The digital transformation services has evolved clearly for making a difference. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT), etc. are widely being used for optimizing various climatic factors. According to UNEP studies, 68 percent of the environment-related Sustainable Development Goal indicators, there is not enough data to assess progress. AI is helping in ways more than we reckon to solve the climate change problems. A quick example would be the use of the smart grid and how AI allows to better communicate, control, and self-regulate energy consumption. As consumers of electricity our relationship is quite transactional- use power and pay the bills; being scarily ignorant of the amount of fossil fuels used to keep the power flowing to the grid. The self-learning and detection features of AI help to predict grid imbalances optimizing energy consumption.
AI is enabling experts to gather more and more data about the conditions of Earth. Collaborative data ecosystem or Big Data Analytics allows organizations to access data beyond the four walls and actively collaborate towards producing sustainable technologies. For instance, the satellite data gives out useful insights to detect landslide patterns as climate changes, determine if the land is being eroded owing to excess water or if there are erosion patterns in the mountains, identify critical regions for emissions reduction, track deforestation, and more. With increasing population and cities getting larger it is important to have prior information on natural calamities in order to send assistance on time. Technologies like environmental sensors further help in accelerating the process by sensing calamities like volcanoes, concentration of dangerous gases, forest fire, landslide detection etc. Adding to the problems of living in congested cities, we use a lot of energy and increase emissions sitting in the traffic. Vehicles in traffic waste more than 6 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel combined every year, according to Department of Energy (DOE) estimates.
Parallelly, Machine Learning (ML) is seen to effectively contribute to saving the world from imminent peril. As we know ML analyzes large amounts of data and extracts patterns to draw meaningful insights. ML Algorithms combat climate challenges across domains- from predicting how much electricity is needed and how to use renewable sources more effectively, to helping farmers with insights to predict which crops to plant when and helping to reduce the overall use of fertilizers.
“The danger of global warming is real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.”- said Margaret Thatcher at the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva. Hence, we must realize there is no planet-B and work unitedly towards establishing a sustainable future. While there are emerging technologies that are capable of saving nature more efficiently than manual human efforts, it all boils down to the motifs and motivation of humans to use the existing technology for good.