Tackling Climate change with technology

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By Swathi Hameed

Climate change is not a new subject to us. This has been a hot topic for discussion since the second half of the last century, but it’s effects have become more prominent in the last decade. 

Since the Earth’s origin, about 5 billion years ago,  the planet’s climate has undergone constant change over geological time. From rock melting heat to bone freezing  ice ages, there have been alternating cold periods that lasted millions of years and warm periods that lasted hundreds of million years. The climate in our surroundings  have deeply conditioned living beings of all forms to continuously conform and adapt to evento seemingly hostile conditions. However, in the past 200,000 years since the first of the homo sapiens walked the face of earth, there haven’t been any major shift in the global climatic pattern. We’re facing the biggest environmental challenge our species has ever seen. No matter what we’re passionate about, something we care about will be affected by climate change. 

When looking at personal experiences of human life span, we can observe seasonal variations with the summers getting  warmer or the weather patterns being unpredictable like unprecedented amounts of precipitation and draughts over the consecutive years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming highlights climate impacts at the current approximation of 1°C global warming as well as the risks of reaching a 1.5°C and the irreversible losses that would take place at 2°C or more warming. 

The rise in global temperature has human hands behind it. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2)​​​​​​​ one of the major greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, as of 2019, is the highest it has been in 3 million years. Greenhouse gases(GHGS) occur naturally and are essential for maintaining the earth warm. But since the industrial revolution there has been a study rise in GHG levels in the atmosphere. Eleven percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans are caused by deforestation. Now that the human fingerprint is on the GHGs, as populations, economies and standards of living grew, so did the cumulative level of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. 

The Amazon rainforest that is being devoured by the wildfire since last month is a carbon-storing powerhouse. In the Amazon, 1% of tree species sequester 50% of the region’s carbon. Under the current conditions, nearly half of the Amazonia will be destroyed by 2050 and almost entirely gone by 2100.

Climate change has a  multiplied effect at the poles. At the top of the world, the ongoing changes include loss of sea ice, rising temperatures and melting of greenland ice sheet. At this rate the Arctic ocean might become entirely ice free in a couple of decades. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the world; in Antarctica the ice sheets equal to the size of India has recently melted and an iceberg the size of the state of Delaware is cracking off the continents. 

Image courtesy: NASA

What we can do 

Design for a future of earth : Make a low carbon design as default. 

It is time to make zero-carbon design the new default and design products for sharing, re-use and disassembly. With the emerging startups and tech giants should make it by default, an environment friendly design in their products, both in usage and production stage. Companies should make sure that they have a circular business model. For reducing the material use, this is very important that the companies adopt a circular business model.  Apple has committed to becoming 100 percent circular as soon as possible.

A price for the Carbon Consumption

The idea of putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions to help tackle climate change has been slowly spreading around the globe over the past two decades. The carbon tax has been adopted by more than 40 governments worldwide, either through direct taxes on fossil fuels or through cap-and-trade programs. Canada currently has one of the most ambitious carbon pricing programs in the world.

Rewards low-carbon consumption 

Ecommerce platforms can create a reward system for the general mass for lowering the carbon consumption. An estimated 300 million customers—similar to the population of the United States—gain points for making low-carbon choices such as walking to work, using public transport, or paying bills online. Virtual points are eventually converted into real trees. 

Using AI for delivering low carbon products

The consumer behaviour is analysed by  Artificial intelligence platforms for giving personalised suggestions for different products based on the consumer’s taste. Why not nudge the customers to take an eco friendly choice by showing more nature friendly, low-carbon choices? By making people more aware of the low-carbon products available, there is a high chance of increasing consumption of eco-friendly products thereby reducing the  carbon consumption.

Rather than continuing with the age old 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – it’s high time that  we be proactive about the issues at hand. 

Swathi Hameed is a tech analyst at Vistas News

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