Climate Change Mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases. What immediately comes to mind are new technologies regarding renewable energies. There is no doubt that transitioning towards renewables is essential to reach the levels set out in The Paris Agreement, however we also need to reduce consumption and, as with many things nowadays, the probable answer is in innovative technology.
An initiative from The U.N. – the COP26 Climate Change Summit Conference – hosted by the U.K. Government in partnership with Italy, will take place in November 2021. With the theme “Together For Our Planet”, its goal is to focus on what is already being done by many and to celebrate those. Importantly, it aims to inspire others to join in a global effort on this crucial issue. The opportunities for tech to improve the world we live in are endless, so it is great to see IBM challenging innovators to develop solutions in its Tech Innovation Challenge.
The challenge enables tech innovators to apply to submit inspirational environmental solutions and to work with IBM to develop working prototypes. In this article I am looking to inspire some innovators by exploring how varied the possibilities are.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” … Jane Jacobs
About three-quarters of all carbon emissions come from cities and the power plants that feed them. This is only about 2 percent of the land surface of our planet and according to an estimate by the United Nations, by 2050 66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. So cities have a key role in fighting against climate change and the deployment of new intelligent technologies is seen as a key factor in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency of cities. These technologies need to be smart, lean, integrated, affordable and efficient. They also should improve people’s quality of life.
The goals of smart cities and sustainable cities are interconnected. In general, a smart city is a city that uses technology to provide services and solve city problems. A smart city does things like improve transportation and accessibility, improve social services and promote sustainability.
Smart cities are not new, traffic lights for example are a perfect example of smart technology. Now cities are using more advanced technology to improve road safety, which can encourage more cycling and reduce emissions from cars.
Smart buildings and smart cities have a lot in common. Specifically, they both rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) as without it, neither would be possible. The true essence of IoT lies in its ability to integrate the various and complex components and IT systems that comprise any modern building.
Fundamentally, it creates a cloud-based network where various devices can communicate and collaborate. This creates a great opportunity to improve efficiency in ways not previously possible.
I quite often refer to Project Drawdown, a list of solutions to help the world reach “Drawdown” – the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change – as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. I was shocked when they listed refrigeration as their number 1 solution to reach drawdown. Why? Fluorinated gases have a potent greenhouse effect and are widely used as refrigerants. Managing leaks and disposal of these chemicals can avoid emissions in buildings and landfills.
Using technology to regulate temperatures in buildings means less power usage and less need for air conditioning. Smart shading, and modern cooling devices incorporating recycled water can make a significant impact on emissions.
“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” … George Washington
The carbon footprint of our food is astonishing. Poor farming methods can destroy soil and we know that soil is a carbon sink, the blacker the soil in general the better the quality. To produce food and improve soil fertility, farming relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, mulch, reduced or no tillage and biological pest control. Crop rotation includes rotating different crops on the same surface thus enhancing soil properties and microorganism activity.
To facilitate record keeping and to have it all in one place, farm management software helps farmers to track organic materials, work hours and finances. Using software to effectively manage crop rotation and monitor weather can also help to predict demand and reduce waste.
Many computing giants have been working on this for years. For example IBM Agriculture helps overcome obstacles to digital transformation, by combining the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), data analytics and predictive insights with unique agricultural Internet of Things (IoT) data. All of this guided by the expertise of veteran food and agribusiness industry leaders and decades of IBM research.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” … Albert Einstein
One of the most wasteful industries is the fashion industry. Pre-pandemic, the fashion industry’s overall waste was predicted to increase by around 62 percent from 2015 levels, reaching an annual total of 148 million tonnes by 2030, according to a 2017 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report by the Boston Consulting Group and Global Fashion Agenda.
New and evolving technology has a crucial role to play in reducing fashion’s impact, whether at the design or manufacturing stage, during the distribution process or once clothes have been worn.
One example is French startup Heuritech’s artificial intelligence-powered trend-forecasting platform teaches algorithms to analyse images from Instagram and Weibo, recognising product details to predict product trends.
Brands including Adidas, Lee, Wrangler and Havaianas subscribe to Heuritech’s platform to help them accurately tailor their production to future demand, thereby cutting waste.
“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.” … Barack Obama
On 4th November 2016, the world came together to sign The Paris Agreement. We can be proud of reaching that, but more is needed. We simply will not reach our target by 2050 by policy alone. The odds are stacked against us, but we are making technological advances like never before.
As I mentioned earlier, the COP26 Summit #TogetherForOurPlanet campaign aims to focus substantial attention on this and related matters. I am sure that we can come together and create the tech solutions that we so desperately need. Technology and the innovators who create solutions using it are the last best hope of mankind. So – If you’re a tech innovator with inspired ideas, please enter the challenge HERE.