Using Technology to Combat Climate Change

Ocean waters are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. Warmer global temperatures affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.


Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree 1: Climate-warming trends over the past century are mostly due to human activities.


While technology has played its part in causing climate change it can also help us get to solutions. Here are five initiatives taking place in the technology community that can fight climate change:

renewable energy1. Data centers

The world’s most influential companies including Apple, NIKEIKEAJohnson & Johnson, and Starbucks, representing over US $1 trillion in annual revenue, are committed to 100% renewable power. Much of the energy used in data centers is not from the actual technology. Instead, it’s from cooling the servers. As well as delivering on emission reduction goals, renewable power can help manage fluctuating energy costs, improve reputation and provide energy security. It also shows business leadership on climate change. This could have massive impact if paired alongside robust government policy that boosts confidence and enables long-term investments.


2. Mobile apps

It takes some digging to find apps that will help you create real change on a daily basis, but they’re out there. Here are some examples of apps that can help you monitor and reduce your carbon footprint and waste:


    • Oroeco is an app that tracks your carbon footprint by placing a carbon value on everything you buy, eat, and do, and then shows you how you compare with your neighbors.
    • PaperKarma is an easy way to cut paper waste. Take a photo of your junk mail, send it through the app, and PaperKarma will figure out what it is and take you off the mailing list.
    • GiveO2 tracks your carbon footprint as you travel. Turn on the tracker when you start a new trip, and it will automatically calculate a timeline of your carbon usage. At the end, you can “offset” it by supporting a sustainable project of your choice.


Internet of Things3. IoT

Monitoring our energy usage makes it possible to be smarter about it. Take Nest, for instance. While an un-programmed thermostat can waste 20% of heating and cooling, Nest tackles the issue with a smart thermostat that learns your patterns and automatically adjusts to save energy. The Internet of Things can save energy and carbon footprints with things as simple as using an app to turn off the lights or with apps like IFTTT, which hooks up to many different types of systems. The IoT can also involve monitoring your sprinkler system to save water, or use sensors to tell you to take a different route when driving to avoid idling in traffic and wasting gas.


4. Open source movement

Open data and open source technologies are a huge way to accelerate environmental research and innovation. Take Tesla, for example. By opening the company’s patents to everyone, Elon Musk wanted to make sure electric vehicles succeeded faster.


5. Mapping

Interactive maps really drive home the point of climate change and can lead the way to remedies. Map layers defining vegetation, soil type, geology, precipitation, and human infrastructure can help model and plan for future change. New mapping technology can make us safer and less reliant on fossil fuels. The U.S Geologic Survey’s 3D Elevation Program is being developed to use advanced mapping to better update hazard maps for floods and earthquakes and find out where the best areas for solar and wind farms.


As you can see, many of these things only require small changes from individuals in order to make a difference for our climate. Some will require much more intentional decisions from businesses. The good news, however, is that with this intentionality, individuals and corporations alike can take action to help our climate. If we’re all in this together, perhaps it’s time that we take a look – individually and corporately – at how we can make a difference.


1. J. Cook, et al, “Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming,” Environmental Research Letters Vol. 11 No. 4, (13 April 2016); DOI:10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002


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