On 5th December, as part of the UN Climate Summit hosted in Madrid (COP 25), a discussion chaired by Massamba Thioye (Manager of the Regulatory Development Unit at UNFCCC) and entitled ‘HOW DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES CAN SUPPORT CLIMATE ACTION’ explored the many ways that the tech sector can contribute to the fight against climate change. Used in conjunction, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be crucial allies in the effort to maximise the impact of policies aimed at shrinking our carbon footprint.
Technology plays a vital role in every part of the climate science knowledge chain, facilitating valuable insights into the effects of climate change on Earth’s systems. Over the course of the summit, a number of sessions demonstrated how AI can be used to gather and interpret scientific data, helping us understand the links between CO2 emissions and various climatic phenomena and extreme weather events. Experts at the International Meteorological Organisation have drawn on data from millions of sensors all over the world, both on land and in the oceans, to model the response to rising emissions and present their findings in a clear and unambiguous way. The results are stark: the planet is warming up, sea levels are rising, glaciers are retreating and desertification is spreading — and all of these phenomena are linked to higher concentrations of CO2 (ppm) in the atmosphere, produced by human activity.
If we zoom in to a more granular level like a city, neighbourhood or even a single building, we find that the technology to measure and monitor our carbon footprint is already available. There is no question that both the commitments reached in Paris (COP 21) and the (anticipated) further ratifications and new agreements at this summit will depend on the massive application of technology. Sophisticated tools will be needed to monitor CO2 emissions, whether generated directly by industry and in the production of fossil fuels (known as scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, respectively) or indirectly through transport, consumption and various other processes (scope 3).
The good news is that a great deal of work has been going on in the background to develop technological solutions to help address the initial challenges of mitigating climate change. Moving forward, it seems that the bulk of the effort will need to be directed towards developing ways of extracting and reporting data in a simple format and harnessing AI to help companies and governmental bodies make informed decisions. It’s a daunting challenge — and the clock is ticking.
Head of Energy & Sustainability – CBRE Spain