02 Sep Left to our own devices: technology and climate change
Following the climate change report released last month by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), a flurry of headlines have swept the media circulating the news of the code red crisis for humanity.
Unsurprisingly, the report found that this environmental emergency is largely the fault of human activity. We are responsible for most of the world’s harmful emissions, whether that is from fossil fuels, landfill waste, deforestation, or, quite frankly, anything else we do. But what part does technology play in this?
In a world with more than a billion vehicles on the roads and an increasing demand for internet-connected devices, technology has certainly impacted the climate. As consumer tech has evolved and gadgets have become more readily available to consumers, our energy consumption has risen significantly. Outside of electricity use, we also generate an enormous amount of e-waste annually: globally, we produced more than 53.5 million metric tons in 2019, according to a report from the United Nations University.
What can we do?
The environmental impact caused by technology is undoubtedly our doing, as we are the drivers behind technological innovation. But this also means we have the power (and are equipped with the tools) to stop, or at least ease, the climate crisis.
Besides the tasks we can take responsibility for on a micro level, like recycling our waste and reducing our carbon footprint, we also need to see big changes coming from the top. This will not happen overnight, but there are thousands of corporations and initiatives actively working with sustainability as their driving cause. We’ve rounded up a few of the most innovative companies for you here:
Climeworks created the world’s first CO2 removal plant which takes air-captured carbon dioxide and either recycles it for use as raw material or omits it completely from the air, safely storing it in natural sinks. Through its direct air capture technology, which is powered by renewable energy, Climeworks is reducing the amount of potentially harmful CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. The company now has 15 machines operating across Europe.
Finding a new home for recycled coffee grounds, Coffee Logs creates exactly what it says on the tin: fire logs made from coffee. Globally, we drink more than 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day which leads to 0.25 million tons of coffee ground waste each year. Coffee Logs is addressing this issue by turning coffee waste from cafés, offices, universities and more, into fire logs which burn 20 percent hotter and longer than other firewood. This also reduces gas emissions and reduces the carbon footprint of coal.
Powered by an industry-leading Artificial Intelligence network (AMP Neuron™), AMP Robotics provides smart and efficient solutions to recycling. Using millions of parameters, the AI platform can recognise objects just as humans do, meaning it can identify specific materials for recycling. The Neuron™ AI has an accuracy level of 99 percent and can even distinguish between packaging brands and recognise barcodes. The prime objective for AMP Robotics is to make recycling “more efficient, cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable”.
Playing For The Planet is an alliance rather than an individual company, which promotes sustainability in the gaming sector. Globally, 2.7 billion people play video games and the purpose of this initiative is to encourage these gamers – people of all ages, races, and genders – to reduce their emissions and contribute to protecting the environment.
The gaming industry has, perhaps, the greatest potential to influence young people. By educating gamers on the climate crisis, we are increasing global awareness of the problem and its potential solutions, encouraging more people to take positive action. Green gaming has also led to real life conservation projects, such as in-game tree planting events which resulted in actual restoration projects across the globe!
The climate report shows that we need to act fast. Now is a good time to reflect on how we can make our lives more sustainable and how can we use technology to achieve this. The sheer volume of innovation in the world today should give us hope that we can reverse the damage we have caused.
My prediction is that ‘green’ technology will be the driving force that eases the climate crisis.