Tech Fuelled the Climate Crisis but Could It Also Help Clean It Up?
They say nothing is certain except death and taxes (and the fact that climate change is the biggest threat to human security in modern history).
For the sake of reassurance, there’s one other phenomenon we’d add to the list. From huddling around a campfire as neanderthals to launching our fellow men to space, humanity is the embodiment of change and progress. 🚀
Though some of us might fear it, few are willing to live entirely off-grid, untouched by science and the digital world. Unless you’re the kind of person that takes The Terminator seriously, it would be foolish to think of technology as either benevolent or destructive.
Seeing as how you’re probably reading this on your mobile phone or laptop, it’s evident that we are all affected by technology, whether we like it or not. But that doesn’t mean we should let the tech industry off the hook.
Technology, and by extension, progress, isn’t bad by default.
In the words of Melvin Kranzberg, a historian who wrote Technology and History: ‘Kranzberg’s Laws’: “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”
Without the brilliant work of inventors and scientists, not only would everyday life be more difficult, but teens worldwide would be bored out of their minds, already plunged into the depths of a midlife crisis.
Think of it this way, without technology, Charles Brush wouldn’t have invented the modern wind turbine. The same is true for Charles Fritts, who managed the first photovoltaic effect and led to the creation of solar panels.
That proves two things. One, if your name is Charles, go invent something. Second, new technology CAN be used for eco-friendly initiatives like making wind power and solar energy achievable. Apparently, environmental technology is a thing now, and we’re all for it!
Jokes aside, advancements in medicine alone make technological innovation essential. And perhaps a necessary evil we must accept, even if that means Apple harvesting our every thought. (Yikes!)
From the previous technique of farmers manually tilling the land to drones and GPS-driven tractors now helping plant our food, there are countless ways tech is being used for good.
Too much of anything can be a bad thing, though, and that applies to technological progress. Unchecked consumerism drives manufacturers to increase profit and lessen the cost at checkout without regard for the environment.
Since the Industrial Revolution, humankind has been on a techno high, with each succeeding generation doubling the success of their predecessors and their carbon footprint.
Fast forward to today, we seemingly cannot survive sans smart technology. It’s impossible to deny the effects of progress, as everywhere you look, its presence is unavoidable.
And that’s the problem.
Technology moguls’ have given new meaning to the phrase: ‘scorched earth’ due to their rampant abuse of our natural resources, leaving the planet covered in carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. Wastewater treatment? Green energy? These tech giants seemingly don’t care as long as there’s no profit to be made.
GHG emissions are a consequence of irresponsible consumerism, non-renewable energy and over-reliance on technology, accelerating climate change with devastating results.
Even now, extreme weather events are dominating the news. Wildfires are raging in Europe following an unprecedented heatwave, and floods are responsible for the deaths of hundreds in China. 🌊
And in July, videos of the ocean LITERALLY on fire in the Gulf of Mexico went viral after the rupture of an oil pipeline.
The International Body On Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its Sixth Assessment Report announcing that the global temperature will rise 1.5℃ degrees within this century, possibly even by the 2030s, unless there are significant measures to counter climate change.
Over the past few years, the number of damaged ecosystems worldwide has grown while countermeasures struggle to keep up. Fossil fuel and other harmful energy sources reign supreme.
For now, that is.
Hotshots from various fields, including science, engineering, and agriculture, are utilising their powers to generate solutions that might provide hope for the future. While theoretically existing thanks in no small part to the Paris Agreement, government efforts still need work.
Let’s talk about those.
Climate Technologies and Sustainability
Before you accuse us of wanting to return Prometheus’ fire, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the benefits of change. Certain tech companies are now leading the fight against the climate crisis.
Climate technologies or climate tech could be the pause button on the destruction of our planet. Without which, future generations will be living out their lives in a twisted Mad Max parody. 🌍
The current state of climate tech is definitely in its early stages, but with enough investors willing to risk capital and put their resources on the line, there’s room for optimism.
Scientists and engineers have long looked at the planet as one giant sandbox in which to shovel toys. It’s no surprise they’ve come up with bizarre ways to counter climate change. The industry calls many of these solutions geoengineering.
No, that isn’t a Bond villain’s dastardly codename for world domination. Some experts are questioning the actual efficiency of these suggestions, but it’s all systems go at this point!
Carbon capture is one example of these outside-the-box solutions. Think of it as scrubbing the air of harmful CO2, using giant fans to suck out the air, and then processing the stream with carefully formulated chemical mixtures.
Opinions about the effectiveness of carbon capturing remain divided; some anticipate reduced GHG emissions, while others point out the cost, health, and infrastructure problems involved.
Decarbonisation appears to be nearly ready for showtime, though. 💡
Another strategy for reducing climate change and its devastating effects comes from mirrors designed to reflect harsher sun rays, a whole new take on the phrase “throwing shade”.
Climate tech startups and think tanks aren’t the only industry searching for solutions.
AI is another avenue to explore, from its application to ‘agtech’ or agricultural technology to improving supply chains and manufacturing practices. There’s also more initiative to keep energy consumption and environmental impact in this field at a minimum.
The Cleantech sector isn’t standing by idly, either. We’re seeing more mainstream acceptance of electric vehicles and their lithium-ion batteries, wind farms, and more renewable energy sources, and we’re all for it!
Inventing the Future
Currently, renewable and clean energy is the Holy Grail of ‘cleantech’ or clean technology-founded companies.
However, while a renewable approach may seem more ethical than a tech one, at the end of the day, they’re both fuelled by capitalism.
Rather than ruling out any solution that comes our way, why not embrace the technology available to us and see where it leads: opening up the potential for newer and better replacements down the line.
Like your favourite app, business models need constant upgrading. There seems to be a trend among financiers, like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, to embrace climate tech.
A goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, while daunting, is possible, as climate tech VC (venture capital) can fund sources of renewable energy and cleaner air.
Some might find change fuelled by capitalism questionable, like fighting fire with fire, but when the outcome is a cleaner, better world, it’s worth investigating further. 🧑🔬
Coupled with better material sourcing and processing, we might turn things around.
Companies are now finding ways to combine profit generation with eco-friendly practices; even air conditioning manufacturers are now separating energy sources for heating and cooling to provide a more efficient and greener outcome.
Though just 100 companies are responsible for 75% of global emissions, we all have a role to play in the climate action movement. The power isn’t only in the hands of investors and companies.
Consumers, through our wallets and voice, can help shape technology use. That’s why conscious and informed shopping is crucial!
Should that involve an ecology exam before adding an item to your cart?
Not really, as you can Google the ethics of pretty much any product on the market.
And hopefully, with some pressure, environmentally unfriendly companies will catch on and switch to sustainable practices.
Big problems require big solutions
One of the best carbon capture sinks is the ocean.
While it can be said that technology brought the world to the brink of environmental destruction, there’s still time to slow the process. Demand for change is needed from investors, engineers, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers.
Climate tech has the chance to be more than a stopgap solution. With public acceptance and cooperation, these technologies can slow down or even reverse the worst effects of climate change.
Buying into these concepts, literally and figuratively, is a must!
The climate technologies in development are a good start, but if we’re to combat climate change effectively, it needs to involve each and every one of us.
And there’s no time like the present!
If you want to learn more about sustainable solutions, check out this article on the cardboard beds at the Tokyo Olympics.