How tech and data skills can contribute to net zero

A pair of hands are cupped around a plant pot, with soil and a seedling growing out of it. Around the hands are line drawn illustrations including a water drop, wind, a turbine and a lightbulb.

Scotland is targeting net zero emissions by 2045, with the wider UK aiming to follow suit by 2050.

To achieve these ambitious goals, every sector must play its part. We often consider industries like energy, engineering and manufacturing to be at the front lines of the net zero movement – but what role can tech play?

There is real potential – and a real need – to harness tech and data skills to reach net zero targets. Here are some of the ways in which tech and data can contribute to a healthier climate.

Data analysis

To effect change, we need climate policies that enshrine sustainable action into law.

But how do we ensure the efficacy of these policies?

Answer: with data analysis.

Data analysts can collect and process information about how policies make a difference in practice.

Crucially, the analysis of data – rather than its collection alone – is what is valuable to governments and businesses.

As Drs Anne E. Eggar and Anthony Capri explain: “[raw] data alone cannot tell you anything about how temperature has changed […] over the past two hundred years, or how that information is related to global-scale climate change.”

Rather, the way that analysts interpret raw data can help identify patterns upon which we can base educated assumptions about appropriate actions.

This interpreted data enables the government and businesses to adapt their approaches based on what’s working and what isn’t.

Data analysis is a vital tool in our fight against climate change. We can quickly learn and adapt by applying data analysis skills to net zero practices.

Digital Twins

Countries worldwide are already experiencing the catastrophic impact of climate change, resulting in extreme weather events like wildfires, floods and drought.

Data sharing through Internet of Things (IoT) and AI technology can help communities predict and respond to extreme weather events.

A proposed national digital twin programme in the UK would require private and public organisations to share data acquired through sensors and modelling to create a virtual representation of a given location. This would democratise access to information about weather-induced threats to safety, allowing communities to take action more quickly.

In a similar vein, the practice of cross-sector data sharing can support decarbonisation to achieve net zero targets. As Dezeen writer Amy Fearson explains, digital twin programmes can help to decarbonise cities by “analysing a range of data sources, from heating and air conditioning systems to employee schedules and local traffic flow patterns.

Digital twins can use this shared data to offer “more energy-efficient approaches.”

Private company decarbonisation

The law requires businesses to reduce their carbon emissions to support net zero targets. Organisations can only achieve carbon neutrality or negativity by harnessing data skills.

If companies are to acquire a complete picture of their environmental impact, they must consider everything from supply chains to processes, including manufacturing, transport, logistics and property management. For larger organisations, this can be a mammoth task.

A TechUK article reveals that: “Jannes Klaas, McKinsey and Company, [states] that as organisations seek to become net zero, they will require lots of data on aspects of their business such as supply chains, as well as analytical tools to understand how processes can be decarbonised.”

Private sector organisations can use data analysis to reduce the size of their carbon footprints significantly. As net zero deadlines draw ever closer, we can expect to see a wave of investment in this area.

Final thoughts

These are just some of the many ways in which tech and data skills can contribute to a healthier planet.

CodeClan Chief Delivery Officer, Ceri Shaw, puts it well when she says: “We’ll only ever reach net zero targets if we embrace the role that every sector and every skillset has to play.

“Technology and data skills are vital if we are to have any hope of combatting climate change – it’s time to encourage more people to develop these skills for the planet’s sake.”

Next steps

Considering a new career path? We help adults across Scotland to learn data analysis and software development skills. Take a look at our range of accredited courses.

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