Last week, two decades of fraught talks culminated in 175 nations signing the Paris Agreement, to end the fossil fuel era and move towards a clean energy economy. The deal sets aspirational goals bound by law to limit global warming below 2C and reach net zero emissions in the second half of the century.
Jennifer Morgan, former global director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute, said the deal “sends signals into the heart of the markets”. Financial commentators say it will help trigger a shift away from fossil fuels and encourage greater investments in renewable energy, and investors salivated at the low-risk transition to low carbon assets in the world’s energy system and infrastructure.
But what about the tech industry? Recent research shows the ICT industry can make a significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions. In the UK, ICT has the equivalent potential to remove the carbon emissions of nearly all the cars on the road (all 29.6m of them). Further research by GeSI, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative compounds the critical role of ICT in decoupling economic growth from carbon emissions.
Alongside mainstream solutions to curtailing emissions, a plethora of creative approaches have been developed as firms innovate to save the planet. We have picked out some of the best ideas.
Entrepreneur Lord Drayson has unveiled a smartphone-sized gadget which can literally summon energy from the air and allow users to see harmful pollution. The nifty bit of technology uses Freevolt, which harvests the energy emitted by broadcast waves, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi to provide continuous power, and runs with a corresponding app which tells you which routes have the most good (green) air when out and about.
Global meat production is responsible for 18% of our greenhouse gas emissions. With demand for meat expected to increase by two-thirds by 2050 this means substantial damage to our environment. To counter the climate impact, the Cultured Beef project is using stem cell technology to culture real beef from the muscle cells of organically raised cows. Research shows the cells from a single cow could eventually produce 175m burgers.
Glow in the dark trees
There are 7.4m street lights in the UK which cost around £300m a year to run, but an innovative Dutch designer, Daan Roosegaarde has come up with an alternative. His “bioluminescent” plant splices DNA from luminescent marine bacteria with the chloroplast genome of a plant to create a jellyfish-type glow.
With hundreds of millions of footsteps a day on the streets of London, a new smart tech solution from Pavegen systems captures the kinetic energy from pedestrians’ footsteps and converts it into electricity. An elevated pedestrian walkway has already been laid in some neighbourhoods and a similar system has been installed at London’s Heathrow airport.
Big Belly smart rubbish bins
Figuring out when rubbish needs to be collected has historically been a guessing game for local authorities, but the Big Belly smart waste and recycling system not only notifies authorities when bins are full, but also uses a solar powered compactor to press the litter down so it can hold up to eight times more litter than a normal bin.
Energy-saving USB charging station
Estimates suggest that 8% of the average household energy bill is created by electronics which are left plugged into the wall when not being used. The Belkin Conserve Valet energy-saving USB charging station can charge several USB-supported gadgets and then automatically turns off, saving up to 67% of phone-charging energy costs.
Journalists, scientists, technologists and environmental campaigners are attending green hackathons to collaborate intensively on projects that could create and implement new ideas for a more sustainable future. By crowdsourcing solutions, the events aim to create a new wave of environmentalism. Recent hacks include one in Lisbon in March that was focused on “ideas for a greener future” and one in Stockholm in February that focused on sustainable urban solutions.
Understanding how climate change affects our weather is crucial to our understanding about our climate future. Weather@home from climateprediction.net, which is backed by Will.i.am and The Guardian, has seen hundreds of thousands of people across the world make their computers available for regional climate modelling experiments – using the combined processing power of many computers to conduct large-scale experiments that would otherwise be difficult or more time-consuming to do.
ChargePoint’s electric vehicle charging corridors
In order to manage the transition from fossil-fuel powered vehicles to electric vehicles the number of fuelling stations must increase significantly. A solution to help manage the transition has emerged via the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) charging network.Chargepoint offers a mobile app to help drivers find available stations, start a charging session, check charging status and view their charging history.
Pure Cool Link air purifier
Tobacco smoke, cookers, moulds, aerosols and household chemicals all create significant levels of pollutants in the home, but a new connected device has engineered a way to combat domestic pollution. Dyson’s new Pure Cool Link air purifier adds an ultra-fine filter to the company’s luxury fans which removes dirt from the air. The fan is connected to the Dyson Link app for iOS and Android.
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