Here’s How Technology Is Tackling Climate Change

Image courtesy of *m22 via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic. 

Man-made technology may have contributed to climate change, but that doesn’t mean it can’t play a part in fighting it.

Solving such a monolithic issue like global warming is far from a cakewalk, and proposed solutions range from practical to ludicrous. Political and economic fixes exist in the form of carbon caps and similar policies, but perhaps more exciting are the technological propositions.

If we’re going to reduce greenhouse gas, there’s quite a lot technology can do to help us. Here are five ways tech is fighting the good fight to potentially save our planet.

1. Carbon footprint apps

Mobile technology can play a big part in measuring and controlling personal impact. We all have a carbon footprint, but with new apps, we can track and shrink them.

For example:

  • Oroeco: An app that places a carbon value on your purchases and energy use, then lets you see the data and compare it with your neighbors
  • GiveO2: An app that measures your transportation footprint, and offset your trips by supporting sustainability projects of your choice.
  • CarbonTrack: A free app that calculates your transportation, energy, and waste from a business perspective.

2. Data, Data Data!

[contextly_sidebar id=”OEBRfle4zsXokGQfnz9xYmSjZyCeEZDd”]Along a similar line, other types personal technology can fight climate change on a personal level — in this case using the Internet of Things, which through tracking usage can help people cut down on electricity, water, and waste.

But on a larger scale, Big Data has a big place in the process too. Such projects include:

  • The Madingley Model: This Microsoft Research project uses data to simulate different life types on Earth, in an attempt to predict how environmental changes impact animal mortality, and then simulate alternative futures for governments and companies
  • Google Earth Engine: Google augments over 40 years worth of scientific data and 25 years of satellite imagery in a tool that scientists, researchers, and governments can use to detect, map and quantify Earthly changes

3. Food tech

Considering the livestock industry uses more fossil fuels than any other, along with land and other resources, technology that produces more sustainable food is emerging with the ability to drastically ease emissions.

Such technology includes:

  • 3D printing, which could print meat, meatless meat, other foods, and reduce waste
  • Companies like Modern Meadow use tissue engineering to make meat and leather products.
  • Modular, robotic gardens (CityBlooms) that can grow food in unused urban spaces.

4. Robot heroics

Speaking of robots, different types of robotic machines may also have roles to play in understanding climate change and reducing emissions.

These include:

  • Autonomous wave-propelled robots called Wave Gliders (by Liquid Robotics) take on areas of the ocean to collect important data on ocean acidification, which scientists have limited knowledge of.
  • Solarbrush: A lightweight, wireless robot that keeps solar panels from losing efficiency by clearing them of sand and dust.

5. Planet hacking

What some call planet hacking, others call potentially ruining the Earth in a risky attempt to save it with science. Some of these largely untested experiments will likely be more of a last-ditch resort (if used at all) but must be commended for ingenuity.

  • Geoengineering: Some scientists want to equip jets with cannisters of sulfuric acid to release into the atmosphere to counter the effects of GHG emissions by reflecting sunlight back into the sky.
  • Carbon capture: Whether in the form of forests of artificial carbon-capturing trees or other “scrubbing” technology, this method allows for carbon to be captured, transported, and either stored in underground rock formations or potentially repurposed as fuel
  • Aerial reforestation: Using planes to drop seed bombs on swaths of land in need of reforestation much faster than traditional planting methods
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Jennifer Markert