How technology can help us in the fight against climate change

Technology and climate

Scientists, governments and companies are looking for technological solutions to mitigate global warming. In this blog post we explore some of the solutions that technology can offer. 

This week a lot of attention has been centred on the Climate Summit (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, but in the background technologists and engineers from all over the world are looking for methods that can combat the causes and effects of global warming from a variety of approaches, including software and data. 

As well as the reduction of fossil fuels and the development of renewable energies, there are technological alternatives that can help fight climate change. 

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we need to “redesign” the way we relate to our environment, as the habitability of the planet will depend, to a large extent, on tools that are currently only available on a small scale and are still expensive.

There’s no doubt that no single solution is capable of solving all the problems. Different industries and technologies must complement each other in order to achieve the objective set by the IPCC: to reach 2100 with a 1.5 degree increase in temperatures. 

Here are three alternatives that are being worked on:

Software and Data

The answer to climate change is also about state-of-the-art algorithms, software and the effective use of data. According to a study by several experts in the field, including Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio and Google Brain co-founder Andrew Ng, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning can play an invaluable role in mitigating and preventing the worst effects of climate change. 

Their proposals range from improving the efficiency of electricity distribution through generation and demand forecasting, to integrating renewable resources into national grids and reducing waste, to being able to predict extreme weather events such as droughts and hurricanes. These can all help governments and businesses become more efficient and protect against some of the worst effects of climate change.

Capturing CO2

Capturing the CO2 from the air is one of the most obvious solutions, but also one of the most expensive. Companies such as Carbon Engineering and ClimeWorks are creating modular CO2 capture plants that are already being used by a number of soft drinks, fertiliser and fuel companies.

ClimeWorks plants, for example, draw in air and, through a filter, are able to isolate atmospheric CO2. Once the filter is saturated, it is heated to 100 degrees to release the carbon, which is collected as a concentrated gas for supply to customers or simply to reduce emissions. 

Building materials

Concrete is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. So much so that, if it were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 after China and the United States. That is why one of the most ambitious approaches is to modify the concrete production process or find other less polluting building materials.

This is what startups such as the Canadian company Carbicrete are working on, dedicated to the production of high quality concrete from mineral waste and CO2 as a raw material.

Newlight, meanwhile, is committed to using microorganisms found in the ocean to convert greenhouse gases into a product they call Aircarbon, a biodegradable and biocompatible material that can be melted down to form fibres and solid parts.

What can we do as individuals?

It’s not only the responsibility of governments and scientists to look for ways to help our planet, we, as individuals, can make small changes. Many initiatives do not involve any expenditure, only commitment.

If we knew just how important trees are in our ecosystem, perhaps we wouldn’t cut so many of them down. They help us by absorbing almost a thousand kilos of carbon dioxide during their whole life. If forests were not cut down, millions of tons of CO2 would not reach our atmosphere!

So, if you get the chance, plant a tree! This Scottish charity, for example, allows you to donate either your time or money

There are numerous ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint, this article has some pointers:

Get the skills to become an agent of change

Learn the technologies that are key in saving the planet: Data Analysis and Software Development. 

With small actions, big changes can happen.


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