Climate change disasters such as forest fires, flooding and droughts have tripled over the last 30 years, while 2022 is set to continue the run of the world’s hottest years. So how do we solve this? The Committee on Climate Change (the CCC) for one sees technology as pivotal to tackling the climate crisis. They look at technology as a key tool in meeting the UK’s net-zero emissions target by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Global efforts to develop low-carbon technologies are underway with support from the government's Clean Growth Strategy, where they promise to fund and support the private sector in the development of low-carbon technologies. Expecting to spend in the region of £2.5 billion, they’ll be helping to fund projects from research and development through to commercialisation as well as agency-led work such as The Faraday Challenge, Defra and the Clean Air Strategy.
And it’s not just government-led projects that are making huge strides forward in sustainable tech. The private sector is smashing boundaries with innovative AI, the Internet of Things and sensors. Energym is helping gyms become self-sustainable by converting energy created by their gym-goers and storing it in batteries for reuse later. 3Bee developed Hive-Tech to monitor the health of beehives for better beekeeping practices. Using sensors, they can monitor the temperature, the sound, the humidity and strength of the colony. Since developing this tech, 3Bee have seen a reduction in bee mortality and increase in the production of honey.
By 2035, all new cars and vans sold within the UK must be fully electric with a ban on the sales of new petrol/diesel cars by 2030. This move to electric vehicles is something that all car manufacturers are striving to meet.
While manufacturers are working hard to provide the vehicles, large chainstores such as McDonalds, Asda, Sainsbury's and Tesco are realising the increasing demand for convenient and quick access to electrical charging points.There are currently 29,692 charging stations within the United Kingdom and this is increasing by an average of 43% every year and many can be found in the carparks of supermarkets, food chains and petrol stations.
The technology surrounding electric cars and lithium ion batteries has been evolving for a while now and with longer journey times and shorter charging periods, the move to all electric vehicles is looking more and more promising.
The benefits of electric vehicles are huge. They don’t produce carbon dioxide when driving and they’re significantly quieter, so there’s also less noise pollution . In fact, just one electric car on the road saves an average of 1.5 tonnes of C02 per year vs an average family car.
While the production of electrical cars and vans requires a lot of energy, more so than the conventional petrol/diesel car due to the lithium ion batteries they require, technology is advancing and someday this shouldn’t be the case. Despite this, electric cars are still the greener option when you take into consideration the reduction in emissions over the car’s lifetime. On average, an electric vehicle emits three times less CO2 than a standard petrol or diesel car.
Despite the complexities and the energy required to build an electric vehicle, this developing technology is still a critical component to helping fight climate change. If every UK driver moved to an electric vehicle, we’d emit 42 million tonnes less CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That’s the equivalent of 7 million people (or 78% of the London population) flying from Heathrow to Sydney and back again.
Microscopic pollutants are invisible and silent killers that are found in the air. By slipping past our natural body defences and into our respiratory and circulatory system, air pollution damages our lungs, heart and brain. One third of strokes, lung cancer and heart disease are a direct effect of poor air quality. As a result of this pollution The WHO (The World Health Organisation), estimates that between 2030 and 2050, air pollution related deaths could increase to ‘hundreds of thousands’.
In 2050, it’s expected that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas such as cities and large towns. Increasing congestion means that these urban centres need to start thinking smartly and changing the way their cities use and produce energy. This is where “smart cities” will play a huge role.
Smart Cities use information and communication technologies to improve efficiency and welfare. This could be sharing private data to help public transport better serve the community or using AI to help providers know when less energy is needed and when it’s in demand. With a smart city, it’s the citizens movements and usage that shapes the city, promoting a more efficient system for welfare, the economy and the environment.
Hamburg is a great example of this. A busy port city in Germany where ships have to burn marine fuels for power while docked and this has had a damaging effect on the city’s air quality. Now, through their partnership with Siemens SIHARBORr, the ships in port can turn off their generators and plug-in to the mainland, where they now draw their power from. This is a huge step forward for Hamburg and their Clean Port Future strategy.
Glasgow is also utilising smart city technology, where their Sensing the City project monitors their air quality and reduces carbon emissions by using street lights to monitor air pollution. Singapore shares anonymised data with privately run bus operators to ‘suggest new bus routes inline with population demand’ and Amsterdam uses sensors with LED lighting on the streets which light up when someone walks by and dims after they’ve passed, reducing the unnecessary need for continuous lighting.
By harnessing technology such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors, cities such as Glasgow, Singapore, Amsterdam and Hamburg are paving the way and becoming cities that are keeping emissions low, their inhabitants health up and fighting climate change.
One of the most prominent greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide and since the industrial revolution started, levels of CO2 have increased by almost 50%. One of the innovative ways scientists are trying to combat this is with an incredible technology called direct air capture.
These large ‘cleaners’ work by removing the CO2 from the air and storing it underground. In some examples, the stored CO2 is then fed back to sectors that need it such as farming for fertiliser.
Net Zero Teeside (NZT) is a great example of carbon capture and storage in progress. This project captures CO2 from industrial processes and from local power-plants. Via several kilometers of pipeline, it’s safely stored beneath the North Sea and no longer contributes to the growing amount of greenhouse gases trapped in our atmosphere.
Another great example of carbon capture is Climeworks in Switzerland who are capturing 900 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year. They are the first company to commercially capture CO2 from ambient air and sell it back to customers in key sectors including farming, food and beverage, energy and car manufacturing. This shows how carbon capturing technologies are key to fighting climate change and reducing the amount of greenhouse gases that are getting trapped in our atmosphere.
You can learn more about Climeworks and how they work in this short video:
While energy usage has soared since the invention of computers, data centres have been found to be far more energy efficient than personal laptops and desktops. Popular hobbies such as gaming create huge carbon footprints due to the development of consoles, games and accessories through to travel and their usage. Research has found that, when taking into consideration the development of games and employees required to produce an individual game, “you end up with somewhere between three million and 15 million tons of CO2 per year.” Google and Microsoft have both launched cloud based gaming systems, saving on CO2 emissions.
Private data used to be stored in servers in an office, running continuously, whether or not they were in use. By moving this data to the cloud and professionally run green data centres, companies have cut costs and manage their data more efficiently. It was argued that data centres would be a huge drain on global energy, however, it was found that data centres only consumed 1% of global energy in 2020 despite the huge increase in data consumption.
Research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that if all US offices were to move their data and work to the cloud, energy used by information technology could be reduced by up to 87%.
In addition to that, a Google study showed that ‘businesses who us Gmail have decreased the environmental impact of their email service by up to 98% compared to those that run email on local servers.’
What is impact-as-a-service? Simply put, IaaS enables businesses, through technology, to tackle social and environmental issues through integrations with the online tools they use every day. Greenspark is a perfect example of IaaS.
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Any business who signs-up to Greenspark can create positive impact through automations that integrate with their tech stack . Be it Reviews.io, Klayvio, Shopify, WooCommerce or Mailchimp, we enable businesses to make positive impact on autopilot.
If you’d like to learn more about how your company can make an impact on the world around you, you can book a demo of the Greenspark platform by clicking here or discover more about us on our website.