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Every country is suffering from the effects of climate change, and organizations and governments are putting in place measures to combat it. The world needs the innovative technologies of 4IR to take urgent climate action to protect life on earth.
This article looks at three SDGs and how 4IR can help the world achieve them urgently. They are SDG 13—Climate action, SDG 14—Oceans, and SDG 15—biodiversity, forests, and desertification. The SDGs relate to environmental issues affecting the earth.
What is Climate Change?
The UN defines climate change as the long term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. Human activities have been the primary driver of climate change in recent centuries because of burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. These activities have released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere trapping heat and increasing the temperature on the earth.
The main greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 11% in 2020 compared to 2019 because of reductions in travel and economic activity because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why Should the World Take Urgent Climate Action to Protect Life on Earth?
The statistics below by the UN show why we need to take urgent climate action to protect life on earth.
2010 – 2019 was the warmest decade and brought massive wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, floods and other climate disasters. The 2020 global average temperature was 1.2°c above the pre-industrial baseline (SDG 13).
Oceans regulate the global climate system and absorb around 23% of annual C02 emissions. The sustainability of our oceans is under severe threat from plastic pollution, fishery collapse, acidification, eutrophication, and ocean warming (SDG 14).
Forests are home to 80% of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. However, a fifth of the earth’s land is degraded and affects 3.2 billion people, driving species to extinction and intensifying climate change. Progress to safeguard key biodiversity areas has stalled over the last 5 years (SDG 15).
Climate Change Initiatives
Two notable initiatives to combat climate change are The Paris Agreement and The Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth initiative.
The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. 196 parties adopted it at COP 21 in Paris on December 12, 2015. The goal of the agreement is to limit global warming to below 2°c, preferably 1.5°c compared to pre-industrial levels.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution for the Earth initiative is a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, Stanford University and PwC, with funding from the Mava Foundation. Its role is to shape the agenda for how companies, governments and international institutions better understand and manage nature and the world’s natural resources using the latest science and technology.
4IR Technologies that Will Help the World Take Urgent Climate Action
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, the 4th Industrial Revolution has specific clusters of transformative technologies that can provide innovative approaches to managing environmental footprints. The technologies include artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, etc. Below are some notable technologies helping the world take urgent climate action.
1. Satellite Technology and Big Data
It is not possible to effectively carry out surveillance on the ocean using aircraft and patrol vessels. The combination of satellite technology and big data provides a fresh approach to preserving important marine areas.
Project Eyes on the Seas combines satellite monitoring, imagery data, vessel databases and oceanographic data to help authorities identify suspicious fishing activity. It helps curb illegal fishing, which causes overfishing and depletion of fishing stocks and threatens the livelihoods of those who depend on ocean resources.
2. Renewable Energy Microgrids
Renewable energy sources are at the top of the list of things that will combat climate change. Sources like solar and wind energy do not contribute to global warming because they do not emit greenhouse gases.
SOLshare is an energy-tech company from Bangladesh that provides energy infrastructure to distribute electricity in rural areas where households buy and sell clean power. With their peer-to-peer microgrids, homes with rooftop solar panels can sell excess electricity back to the microgrid, and others can buy it. The company’s solutions reduce emissions by 30% and boost household income by 25%.
3. Satellite Technology and Cloud Computing
Satellites show how climate change leads to rising sea levels, melting sea ice, wildfires, droughts, and other extreme weather patterns. When combined with other technologies like cloud computing, satellites help in monitoring activities that lead to the degradation of the earth.
Global Forest Watch is an online platform many people use to monitor and manage forests, stop illegal deforestation and fires or raise the alarm over unsustainable activities. It gives quick online warnings on deforestation occurring in isolated areas. The technology uses satellite data, cloud computing, phone data, and maps.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new structures, materials and devices. It is used in sectors such as medicine, consumer products, energy, materials and manufacturing.
FuelGems is a nanotechnology company that has created a fuel additive made of carbon-based nanoparticles that will make fuel cleaner and more efficient. The additive will reduce dangerous pollutants by 50% and make fuel more efficient by 9%. This additive will make gasoline cars almost as clean as electric cars. The product is in the pilot and pre-pilot phases.
4IR technologies will speed up the efforts of countries worldwide to take urgent climate action. They will help with developing systems that effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.
If you would like to learn about the emerging technologies of 4IR, get a copy of Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution.
If you want to gain Strategic 4IR Skills, register for the 4IR Foundation Course at the 4IR Academy.