Recent report The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a bleak picture of the future and again focuses on the fact that humans are the main culprit in the coming warming of the Earth to dangerous levels. The main problem is carbon dioxide emissions. If we do not reduce our current indicators, then by the middle of this century we will have a global warming of 2 degrees.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres rightly noted that this report is a “red light” for humanity. We urgently need to take action to prevent such significant damage, and to do so before it is too late. Could technology be the key to solving humanity’s biggest existential crisis?
Pure zero is the only answer
Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels are choking our planet. The IPCC report warns sharply that the window for “immediate and large-scale” emission reductions is closing quickly, so we need to achieve minimum targets (at least net zero) by 2050.
The so-called “net zero” is a condition in which the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are balanced by their removal from the atmosphere. Achieving net zero is vital because, at least in the context of CO2, this is the state where global warming stops.
UN campaign “Race to zero” is mobilizing a coalition of leading Clean Zero initiatives representing 733 cities, 31 regions, 3,067 businesses, 173 major investors and 622 higher education institutions. ” To stay within 1.5 ° C of warming, we must dramatically reduce other greenhouse gas emissions (such as methane) and move away from over-reliance on carbon offsetting in our sustainable development plans.
As a global leader in the consulting industry, I have been at the forefront as I watch powerful new technologies and solutions shape our future and help us tackle the world’s most complex challenges. Here are some initial ideas for how I think technology could free us from this crisis.
Healing with blockchain and cloud computing
Data science and cloud computing have made it possible to use highly elastic computational solutions to calculate gross carbon product (GCP) across all carbon generating sources. They can help define data-driven macro-level policies on renewable energy consumption targets and carbon emissions targets for businesses and individuals, encouraging them to reduce their footprint.
IoT devices with advanced computing can enhance remote monitoring of carbon-generating sources and prevent unnecessary carbon emissions. For example, Ericsson’s 2015 report cites IoT ground transportation solutions, including traffic monitoring, that will reduce emissions by optimizing traffic routes.
Blockchain technology could create a universal carbon currency through global carbon trading registries, allowing countries to buy carbon credits for their energy needs, developing a progressive framework for achieving net zero. The World Economic Forum has launched its Mining and Metals Blockchain Initiativeby creating a carbon tracking platform to enable end-to-end monitoring of CO2 emissions using distributed ledger technology.
Cleansing the planet with AI and advanced analytics
The Amazon rainforest currently emits more carbon dioxide than it takes in, according to a study by researchers at the Brazilian National Space Research Institute. Our oceans are clogged with pollutants, while fish stocks are shrinking at an alarming rate, as was found in the famous researchconducted by members of the Linking Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Working Group. The mismanagement of natural resources continues to upset the delicate balance of our ecosystem.
Advanced analytics can significantly help the fishing industry by increasing the total biomass of ocean resources while reducing operating costs and seafood prices. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology can improve the traceability of seafood supply chains. Predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence can provide accurate recommendations for where to fish based on real-time ocean and species data. A recent Fund for the Environment article described several smart technologies such as AI, data sensors and analytics that are helping to improve the efficiency of the fishing industry while reducing overfishing.
Eliminating E-Waste Through Innovation
The ubiquity of digital technology means that our global e-waste is enormous. According to Statista, the average US household of 2.53 has 10.37 connected devices. Hologram technology can help with this by replacing and reducing materials that are non-recyclable or cost-effective.
Holographic technology can create a real interactive device that will integrate and replace all existing consumer electronics. In addition to features such as voice control, biometric authentication, and motion detection, hologram devices can display numeric keyboards, eliminating the need to manufacture electronic peripherals such as keyboards, mice and remote controls. Technology is evolving rapidly, as evidenced by a New York startup Looking Glass Factorywhich has developed a holographic interface that does not require an augmented or virtual reality headset.
Time is running
Humans played a fatal role in our planet catching such a disease, but perhaps we can offer it a cure. The use of innovative technologies gives us the opportunity to stop and even reverse climate change.
Industry initiatives and policies alone are not enough. We need conscientious citizens to really get going. Everyone’s consumer choices must be judged in terms of their carbon footprint. Every purchase must have a matching carbon label. Each ingredient / part should be tracked for an “E” score with IoT sensors, which should measure the area of batches of products based on energy use, plant space efficiency and waste.
The impact will be widespread. Supply chains will change. Intensive irrigated crops will gravitate towards regions with low carbon emissions. The government’s energy policy will give way to the need to compete on a low-carbon basis. Along with the influence of smart grids, which enable prescriptive AI to suggest energy optimization and stimulate behavioral warnings (such as “walking from point A to point B”), this will save 4.5 tons of CO2.
Once the world embraces this paradigm, wearable devices, the Internet of Things and blockchain wrapped in artificial intelligence will help each of us make choices in the fight against carbon on the planet.