CO2 emissions at record high – can tech bring us a sustainable future?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states that in 2016, concentrations of atmospheric CO2 was at a record high. That increase alone is 50% higher than the average increase of the past 10 years.

Dr. Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO’s global atmosphere watch program told BBC News that this was the largest increase the organization has seen in the last 30 years. In 1960, the CO2 parts per million were just under 320, while in 2016 it was above 400.

Reasons behind this jump include El Nino weather as well as human activity. The WMO analyzes data from research stations placed around the world that measure concentrations of warming gases. These include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrious oxide.

While emissions from human sources have actually decreased in the last two years, the cumulative total of human activity-based emissions over years can stay active for centuries.

WMO’s report states that since 1990 there has been a 40% increase in the warming effect on our climate due to greenhouse gases.

While technology seems to be part of the human activity contributing to such increases in CO2 emissions, tech can help reduce these greenhouse gases and create more sustainability.

One way is through big data. The field of climate informatics uses machine learning to better understand how climate is changing. Blake Snow reports that this field of study uses big data to study extreme weather systems, something that indicates climate change. Big data and the models and algorithms applied to that data can help enforce regulations and see which companies are compliant with sustainable standards.

Many businesses use supply chain policies to lower their carbon footprint, and so the transparency of supply chain is necessary for seeing accurate data. Melissa Rowley reports that the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition uses IoT and digitization to drive sustainable impact through open source systems and internal and external communications.

Digital platforms that increase supply chain sustainability can help analyze more data, educate consumers on sustainability of products, provide training courses on how to improve their supply chain, and create apps that allow workers to report grievances.

We can all do more to reverse the effects of such a massive increase in CO2 emissions. The future can be crafted by how we use technology to monitor and improve our carbon footprint.


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