As technological advances invade social and economic life, more questions arise regarding the impact of innovation on Earth’s sustainability, be it positive or negative. Currently, technology and sustainability are working together to slow climate change down and, consequently, save ecosystems and give better quality of life to all communities.
Afterall, does technological innovation really help to deal with climate change? Or could it be that the negative impact of technology is greater than what the ecosystems can support?
In this article we will try to answer these questions and give examples of how technology can help to deal with the climate crisis.
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The Earth is leaving a geological period behind, and it is (officially) moving to enter a new era: the Anthropocene period. The previous period – Holocene -, whose main determining factor was the stability of the planet’s temperature, gives way to the Anthropocene period, which is characterized by the human impact on Earth and the irreversible consequences that human actions have on the planet. From global warming to ocean acidification, going through air and water pollution.
The expedition to Lake Crawford, in Canada, was decisive in establishing this hypothesis. For the first time, evidence of human impact has been found in the sediments accumulated in this lake, such as plutonium, heavy metals, ash from power plants and microplastics.
To try to repair the negative consequences of human action, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things and 5G are becoming more sustainable and playing an essential role in monitoring the impact of human action and pointing out necessary adjustments to avoid spending unnecessary resources.
These emerging technologies are already redefining the social and economic landscape and, who knows, maybe they can redefine the climate emergency we are already living in.
To reduce the impact that technological advances have on the environment, there has been a collective effort to make them consume less energy. Sustainable technology, or green technology, is the symbiosis between technology and sustainability that Earth needs to stop the environmental crisis.
And, in addition to technological applications already on the way to becoming more sustainable themselves, they are also part of the strategy for sustainable development. Thus, sustainable technology exists to restore life quality, while prioritizing the preservation of ecosystems.
Considering the report “How can Artificial Intelligence Enable a Sustainable Future?”, carried out by PWC and Microsoft, by combining technology and sustainability, it is possible to “restructure industries, scientific discoveries, human effort and even economic power”.
Today, we are witnessing a collective effort to digitize countries while they are drastically reducing carbon emissions. This is, therefore, an opportunity to use technology in the service of sustainability.
Emerging technologies are being applied, essentially, in five main areas: energy, transport, air pollution and forests and water.
According to the report published by PWC, in partnership with Microsoft, the use of Artificial Intelligence in these five areas has a positive impact on building a sustainable future, both environmentally and economically.
AI in the energy sector
When we talk about technology and sustainability, the energy sector is one of the most likely to apply technological innovations to reduce the impact and carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
The application of AI involves having a better distribution of energy, as well as its storage. Energy management entities will have to take advantage of the full potential of the grids, ensuring that a location does not exceed the established daily consumption, while keeping a supply.
For this, AI can monitor and point out the places in the grid where it is still possible to explore the supply or where it will be necessary to manage it better. In addition, this emerging technology may also point out where it is profitable to explore renewable energies at lower costs.
For this, PWC and Microsoft point to the need to implement IoT16 at an industrial level. This may have more costs in the short term, but which will translate into resource savings in the future. The report also points out the need for more charging points for electric vehicles that allow for faster charging.
Technology applied to transportation
In addition to charging points, it is essential that electric vehicles are more efficient, becoming a viable alternative for the daily life of every person who uses a car.
Although it is necessary to exploit lithium to be used in electric vehicle batteries, the industry and their use have a much lower carbon footprint than vehicles with diesel, gasoline, or gas engines.
In vehicles where AI is applied, it is possible to use intelligent navigation and eco-driving software, which indicates how to consume less energy day after day. AI can point out routes with less traffic in real time, making you travel more efficiently and sustainably.
Technology in forests and depolluting the air
It seems counter-intuitive to apply technology to something organic like a forest. However, this can be an asset to detect illegal deforestation and monitor forest conditions in real-time.
To do this, AI can analyze data from satellites or from sensors planted on the ground. With this data, people can act accordingly and protect forests more effectively.
And, as it is the forests that emit oxygen and clean the CO2 present in the atmosphere, protecting forests means having better air quality. However, the pollution that is present in the air today represents a real danger to anyone’s health and, consequently, a significant economic cost in healthcare and related infrastructures.
AI in water management
With climate change, many countries are suffering from extreme and prolonged droughts, which translates into a lack of water. With AI, it is possible to monitor and predict river flows and the fresh water that will be available in the future. With this monitoring and prediction, it will be easier to manage the use of clean water for important actions and thus eliminate unnecessary expenses.
With better management of this resource, water supply entities will have lower costs and will be able to reduce environmental impacts.