Until very recently, many energy and resource executives believed they could meet sustainability requirements by publicizing a few carefully chosen environmental projects and technology programs. In annual reports and TV ads, these companies have highlighted their successes in, for example, reducing fugitive emissions, developing biofuels and protecting fragile environments--initiatives of which executives can justly feel proud. But as the climate change dialogue intensifies, and as the calls to take action gain urgency, events are overtaking that traditional, project-by-project approach. For every promotional ad about a company's efforts to invest in carbon capture or restore wetlands, a million tweets showing a marine animal trapped in plastic make their way around the world and onto the phones of a company's customers. Most energy and natural resources CEOs would say that their companies have accelerated their sustainability efforts (see Figure 1).
Now is a particularly opportune time to drive towards this goal. As the world moves towards a COVID-19 post-pandemic recovery, the UN has called on governments to heed the "unprecedented wake-up call" and "build back better" by creating more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies. There are two approaches to Green AI – using AI to solve sustainability challenges and using AI in a more sustainable way. How can AI solve sustainability challenges? Delivering societal and environmental well-being through AI are key strategic considerations of the European Commission, who acknowledge that "AI systems promise to help [tackle] the most pressing concerns, including climate change and environmental degradation".
As the world continues to make attempts at urgently containing the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an even more dire issue that needs to be addressed: Climate change. New research, published in last month's edition of the journal Communications Earth and Environment, found that in 2019, Greenland's ice sheet lost an annual record of 532 billion tonnes of ice. For perspective, between 2003 and 2016, Greenland's ice sheet lost on average about 255 billion tonnes of ice each year. Further evidence of climate change worsening was seen last week when a large chunk of Greenland's ice cap, estimated to be 110 square kilometres in size, broke off in the far north-east Arctic, the Associated Press reported. But climate change is no longer a conversation only had among environmental activists. Technology companies and their leaders are getting involved too, with many joining the fight.
With increasing concerns about the environment, people are re-evaluating every aspect of their lives. Did you know that every year, an estimated 2.2 billion tons of waste is dumped in our oceans? As per the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013, Americans generated about 254 million tons of waste with about 34% recycling rate. The UK produces about 434 million tonnes of solid waste annually with a projected growth rate of around 3% per year. The Brundtland report clearly outlined that sustainable development would only be achieved if society in general, and industry in particular, learned to produce more goods and services with less of the world's resources and less pollution and waste.
This article was first published in Branch magazine, an online collaboration between EIT Climate-KIC, Mozilla Foundation and Climate Action.tech A global pandemic has shocked the world, leading to thousands of deaths, economic hardship and profound social disruption. While we worry about our immediate needs, we should remember that another crisis is looming: climate change. The lockdown made it clear that staying at home and slowing down the economy is far from enough to solve the climate crisis. We're still emitting more than 80 per cent as much CO2 as normal, despite having 17 per cent fewer emissions compared to 2019 -- which is one of the most significant drops in recent years (1).