We have known about the climate change crisis for a very long time, and it has taken us an equally long to mobilize the planet to take action. Here we are again with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report). Despite the situation getting ever more dire, the good news is that this time around, we have the technology and the resources to make actionable change.
Here is a quick summary of the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report:
- The report concludes that it is unequivocal that human activities, notably burning fossil fuels, have caused the Earth’s climate to warm. It states that global temperatures have risen by 1.1°C since pre-industrial times and could rise by 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels within two decades.
- The report finds that many changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, and loss of Arctic sea ice, are happening faster than previously anticipated.
- The report states that limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels would require immediate, rapid, large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
- The report finds that achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by around 2050 is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
- The report notes that even if emissions are drastically reduced, some degree of climate change is unavoidable and will continue for centuries.
- The report emphasizes the need for adaptation measures to help societies and ecosystems cope with the impacts of climate change that are already underway or will be unavoidable.
- The report highlights the importance of international cooperation and action to address the climate crisis and notes that every fraction of a degree of additional warming matters.
- The report warns that failure to take decisive action on climate change could lead to irreversible and catastrophic impacts on the planet and its inhabitants.
On that note, the report suggests a wide range of technologies that could help achieve climate goals, and the good news is that many of these are already being adopted:
- Renewable energy technologies, such as solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, to replace fossil fuels for electricity generation.
- Energy storage technologies, such as batteries and pumped hydro, to help balance the variability of renewable energy sources and ensure a reliable electricity supply.
- Carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies can capture carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes and power generation and store them underground or use them for industrial applications.
- Low-carbon transportation technologies, such as electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, and biofuels, to reduce emissions from the transportation sector.
- Energy-efficient buildings can reduce energy demand for heating, cooling, and lighting and improve indoor comfort and air quality.
- Low-carbon industrial processes, such as electrification, process optimization, and material efficiency, reduce emissions from industrial sectors.
- Sustainable land management practices, such as reforestation, afforestation, and sustainable agriculture, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in soils and vegetation.
- Climate adaptation technologies, such as early warning systems, flood barriers, and drought-resistant crops, to help societies and ecosystems cope with the impacts of climate change that are already underway or will be unavoidable in the future.
The report also notes that while technology alone cannot solve the climate crisis, it is an essential tool to complement and enable other solutions, such as changes in behaviour and governance. Another necessary and underutilized tool is data.
Here are some ways data can be the driver in ensuring the optimal use of the technologies mentioned above.
- Informing decision-making: Data on greenhouse gas emissions, climate trends, and the impacts of climate change can help policymakers, businesses, and communities make informed decisions about how to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change, and build resilience.
- Monitoring progress: Data can be used to track progress towards climate goals, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions or increasing the share of renewable energy in the energy mix. This can help identify areas where additional action is needed and enable adjustment of policies and measures.
- Identifying opportunities: Data can reveal opportunities for emissions reduction, such as identifying high-emitting sectors or technologies where improvements can be made.
- Optimizing resource use: Data can be used to optimize resource use, such as in managing energy and water systems, transportation networks, and buildings. This can help reduce emissions and save costs.
- Enabling innovation: Data can facilitate innovation by providing insights into patterns and trends, and identifying opportunities for new technologies, products, and services.
Examples of data-driven initiatives that can help achieve climate goals include
- Climate data platforms that provide access to a wide range of climate-related data and tools for analysis, visualization, and decision-making.
- Smart grid systems that use data to create digital twins of the grid and analytics to optimize the integration of renewable energy sources, storage, and demand response technologies into the electricity grid.
- Climate risk assessment tools that use data to identify and assess the risks of climate change to infrastructure, communities, and ecosystems and inform adaptation planning.
- Carbon accounting systems that use data to track greenhouse gas emissions and removals from different sectors enable emissions reductions to be attributed to specific actions.
- Sustainable agriculture platforms that use data to optimize crop yields and reduce emissions from agricultural practices.
Rather than despair, we must view the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report as a call to action. We MUST act now. Human creativity and innovation have always been our most vital assets; rather than use them to our detriment, let us engage collectively to change our behavior and governance and ensure data is driving the use of technology to achieve the quantum leaps necessary to save our planet.