Technology has certainly changed our lives. Without it, we’ll still be living without electricity, ships, planes, trains, cars, and the gadgets, like cavemen, in the dark and with not much to do. But has tech been as good to our environment as it has been to us?
Technology Is to Blame for Climate Change
Our climate change and technology issues stem as far back as the Second Industrial Revolution in the 1880s when people started using coal to generate electricity for homes and industries. At first, people could only look at the benefits. Today, of course, we all know that generating electricity comes at a cost, as it emits tons of carbon. That, of course, leads to pollution and extreme weather conditions, among many others.
Over the years, our population has grown. Our needs have grown as well, and it’s not a far cry to say that no one can live without electricity today. The global electricity consumption, in fact, consistently increases year on year.
As electricity consumption grows, of course, so does carbon emission. To help you understand how much carbon we release into the atmosphere, these figures from the Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator may help:
Let’s just say we’re hurting the environment for sure. And electricity isn’t the only technological advancement that’s causing us grief.
Over the years, transportation has also improved so much. Planes, ships, trains, and cars sure do help us get from one place to another way faster than non-gas-powered vehicles of the past (think horse-drawn carriages and rowing boats) did, but they’re also to blame for today’s high carbon emission.
Even the smallest but certainly most used modern devices—our mobile phones—have their own carbon footprint. To put that into perspective, a person who changes phones every three years would do so 23 times if he or she lives up to 70 years old. Manufacturing those phones emits 1,610 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which translates to flying from London to New York 2.5 times. And that’s just the amount each person contributes to climate change from the manufacture of mobile phones. The carbon emission generated by using and charging each phone is even greater. Multiply those figures (give or take some kilograms) by the world’s population and you’ll see just how much convenience may be costing our environment.
Tech, however, is a two-edged sword. While some may deem it a bane to climate change, it can also help alleviate some of the damage we may have already done.
Will Technology Save Us from Climate Change?
While the negative effects of technology can’t be denied, we can’t discount the fact that it can also be our savior.
Many of today’s biggest tech companies are now paying more attention to reducing their contribution to global warming at the very least. Some of the efforts to alleviate climate change are detailed below.
Solar Panels and Wind Turbines
These climate change-reducing technologies have been around for decades. They turn solar energy and wind power into electricity without releasing greenhouse gases. People who wish to reduce their carbon footprint can use these to power their homes and businesses. Companies like Target, Walmart, Prologis, Apple, and Costco Wholesale are some of the top solar power users today.
Direct Air Capture Technology
We’ve already established how much our carbon footprint has grown over the years. Apart from lessening our use of electricity and gas, we need a faster way to reduce carbon emission. Enter direct air capture (DAC) technology, which can be likened to giant vacuum cleaners that suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By the way, keep in mind that carbon dioxide is used in fertilizers and carbonated drinks.
Some of these cleaners mentioned above bury the gas underground. In other cases, the gas is given back to industries that need it.
Maritime shipping emissions comprise 2.5% of the global carbon footprint. That’s why Scandinavian nations formed a partnership to build a large ferry powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Instead of releasing harmful carbons, these ships create energy from hydrogen gas and release only water. Their first ferry is set to connect Oslo and Copenhagen by 2027. If that works, the rest of the world can follow suit and thus reduce our carbon footprint by so much.
Tons of new technologies are being developed now to stem climate change. Apart from individual efforts like biking instead of driving, reducing energy use, and being more conscious of the environment, maybe climate change-conscious technology can indeed help us address global warming even if it did cause the problem in the first place. Balancing tech’s pros and cons is the way to go it seems.