Climate change is a colossal challenge, and it can seem like individual actions won’t be enough to tackle it, or that we don’t have the resources necessary. But neither of those are true. There are many individual actions we can all take that will help change the course of climate change. Many technologies available at both consumer and industrial levels can play a role, from simple things like switching to LED lights to complex processes such as building wind farms for renewable energy.
With so many people consuming our valuable resources, science says humans are a main cause of climate change. Rapid changes in climate due to human activity have been seen since the industrial revolution. There are other contributors to climate change, such as deforestation and land use practices, but our technological development is unquestionably a major contributor as well.
Given that our technologies are not going anywhere, the best thing we can do with them is harness the full extent of their possibilities to mitigate the harm to the planet we have already created. And, at our current point, we need to use everything available to us in the fight against climate change; we’re running out of time. Let’s look at some of the ways technology can help us fight climate change.
One of the most promising technologies right now is negative emission tech. It aims to remove carbon from the atmosphere to offset the carbon going into the atmosphere. Of course, there are many ways to reduce how much carbon we put into the atmosphere, like reforestation and changing land-use practices, but those take time, and we don’t have a lot.
Carbon capture technology can help us reach a net-zero state by 2050 (or ideally, by 2030) if it is deployed soon. Currently, in pilot stages are machines that remove carbon from the air and store it underground, and other technologies are in the works.
Smart home tech
Remember when we said there were individual actions to take? One of the most promising is to use smart home tech, such as thermostats, lighting systems, utility meters, and leak detectors, to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.
Eventually, these local systems can be hooked up to smart city systems for more effective energy deployment, waste management tracking, and traffic management, among other possibilities. As the capabilities of the Internet of Things develops, both smart home tech and city-wide smart systems will become effective tools in tackling climate change.
Information and communication
As climate change progresses, severe weather events are becoming more and more common, and these events are costly and life-changing for many. The better we can do in predicting and managing severe weather, the more our recovery efforts will succeed. This kind of tech, for the most part, doesn’t do anything to change the direction of climate change, but it does help humans deal with the consequences.
Some examples of this tech are satellite systems using solar power and early warning systems via mobile networks. Information and communication technology is also being used to track environmental changes, such as temperature and sea level, to mitigate adverse effects on people and animals.
Machine learning and AI
AI is on the leading edge of our technological development and holds great promise for scientists working to better understand and address climate change and its effects. A recent research paper from professionals at Cornell University discusses ten ways AI can help in the fight against climate change. Those include creating low-carbon materials, making transportation more efficient, creating more tools to support individual changes to reduce carbon footprint, and designing more efficient electrical systems.
One of AI’s other significant contributions is that it helps climate scientists build better prediction models so they can learn more about precisely how our actions are affecting the planet and what changes will be most effective.
Greenhouse gases are, of course, produced in large part from our reliance on fossil fuels, which means a paradigm shift in energy production and use is in order if we’re to effectively address climate change. Wind farm tech is already taking hold, but there’s still much to be explored with solar power and how to efficiently store the energy generated from solar panels. Another promising line of investigation is nuclear power, which can produce carbon-free energy. We’re not there yet, but there are companies exploring how to do this safely, such as General Fusion in Canada.
Another type of tech in the works for energy production is the smart grid, which would be able to route energy efficiently and integrate renewable energy systems on a larger scale.
Climate change is a big problem, but there’s hope on the horizon in the form of new and emerging tech. Although different organizations predict different critical deadlines (2030 and 2050 being the two currently discussed), some are pushing for more aggressive action that uses available technology to its fullest extent. The Environmental Defense Fund, for instance, is calling for a 45% reduction in oil and gas methane emissions by 2025, which they claim is possible due to increased digitization in the industry. Technology, when harnessed, is one of the most powerful tools we have to successfully contend with the crisis we’re facing.