This week, MPs have voted to declare an environmental and climate emergency which demonstrates the will of the commons on the issue but it doesn’t actually provide a legal bill to force the government into taking action. But what does this mean, how can technology help and what are businesses doing to reduce their environmental impact?
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition who tabled the motion claimed this as being “a huge step forward” with the decision in parliament coming after lengthy protests from the “Extinction Rebellion” group. This motion was one of the groups demands which followed with the Environment Secretary Michael Gove claiming that there was an emergency but didn’t back Labour’s push to declare such.
Jeremy Corbyn from atop a fire engine yesterday explained:
“This can set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments around the globe.
“We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis.”
But how is technology helping us with this environmental crisis?
PriceWaterhouseCooper on AI
Global accountancy and auditing firm PwC presented a report on how technology and Artificial Intelligence can help the current environmental crisis at the recent Davos summit.
In the report, commissioned by Microsoft; PwC state that:
“In parallel the application of AI levers could reduce worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 4% in 2030, an amount equivalent to 2.4 Gt CO2e – equivalent to the 2030 annual emissions of Australia, Canada and Japan combined.
At the same time as productivity improvements, AI could create 38.2 million net new jobs across the global economy offering more skilled occupations as part of this transition.”
Looking at the report in finer detail shows that this reduction of up to 4% in emissions will also help to improve global GDP by between 3.1% – 4.4%. So not only will AI potentially help reduce the environmental crisis impact but will also see increases in jobs and overall economic gains.
IBM’s Green Horizon Initiative
In China, up to 4,000 people are killed every day by air pollution and IBM are introducing their Green Horizon initiative that will help in cities such as Beijing to monitor pollution levels and the impact upon them by upcoming weather fluctuations. This information will then be amalgamated to produce information regarding which parts of the city will be most hazardous at any one point, and thus regulate traffic and transport flows accordingly to reduce dangerous “hot spots”.
The IBM website states that it is a mixture of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Machine Learning that is helping with this:
“While the data is too complex for human analysts to be able to detect patterns, AI and IoT technologies are able to digest big data in order to pinpoint trends. After conducting predictive analysis, the system is able to make forecasts far more effectively than ever before. Since launching the initiative in 2014, IBM has been able to generate high-resolution 1-by-1-kilometer pollution forecasts 72 hours in advance, giving citizens more warning and planning time.”
Working out what we don’t know
One of the biggest issues with the climate change crisis is working out what we don’t already know about what is happening and how certain elements are affecting the crisis in different ways. This is where Big Data and Machine Learning come into play – we have already mentioned this in a few different posts in the past but put simply; Big Data is pretty much exactly what it says: extremely large data sets that are used for analysis and comparison to help us understand topics in much more detail than was previously possible; helped by powerful computing. Machine Learning is a branch of Artificial Intelligence in which computers study and use algorithms in order to work out how to better and more efficiently complete tasks.
With all of this put together, data visualisations are built and displayed to help us understand in greater detail than ever before what the issues are that we are facing as a society and how we can best tackle them. This has been paramount in reaching the current status acknowledged by Parliament this week and will help us understand how we can start to reverse the damage done to planet Earth.
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