The effects of climate change have become increasingly real over recent years. NASA confirms what we regularly see on the news: increases in extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes; melting polar ice caps leading to higher sea levels; and a devastating impact on ecosystems and natural life.
The United Nations Paris Agreement of 2015 has seen many governments take positive steps towards preventing or reversing the effects of climate change. For example, France, the UK, China, Israel, Costa Rica, and Ireland have all committed to banning the future sale of fossil fuels.
However, if we are to reverse the potentially disastrous effects of climate change,
proactive measures need to be taken by more parties than just governments—including
Corporations Need to Play Their Part for a Sustainable Future
Corporate, as well as national, adoption of sustainability goals will be a driving factor in reversing the effects of climate change. Adopting a policy of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has many benefits for companies. As technology increasingly eats up vast volumes of available energy, it is perhaps unsurprising that technology firms should be among those taking concrete steps to ensure sustainability.
News stories about Tesla tend to cover the Twitter antics of its bad-boy CEO or its latest developments in automotive tech. A less-reported fact is that the company is actually making substantial forward strides in the use of renewable energy.
Earlier this year, Tesla announced that it had installed a gigawatt-hour of energy storage since 2015. To put this into context, this is equivalent to half of the total global energy storage established in 2017. Energy storage is crucial to the success of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or hydroelectric, as it allows power to be harvested and used at a later date.
Facebook and Google are two other examples of companies more frequently in the news for scandalous reasons, but they can both boast impressive developments in sustainability. Facebook has said it is only two years away from powering all its data centres using 100% renewable energy sources.
Google is undertaking a similar initiative. At the same time, the company is working with UN Environment to develop a data and analytics platform that will measure the human impact on the environment.
While such major corporations as Tesla, Facebook, and Google have extensive resources to allocate towards sustainability initiatives, are there opportunities for smaller startups to pull their weight in the race towards a sustainable future? Thanks to the advent of blockchain technology, the answer to that question is looking more positive than ever.
Could Blockchain Accelerate Progress in Sustainability?
Many startups working with emerging technologies are currently targeting sustainable solutions. One of the core principles of blockchain is its use of distributed computing networks. One company, called Eloncity, is taking it to the next level by developing a sustainable decentralized power infrastructure. Eloncity will deploy smart battery energy storage systems integrated with Internet of Things (IoT) technology that will recognize the volumes of energy stored. This will interface with a system that allows power trading using the native digital token of the Eloncity blockchain, with energy prices determined in real-time using AI.
In this way, Eloncity foresees a future where all homes can participate in an energy marketplace, by selling energy when they have a surplus and buying it from others at the point of need. At certain times, for example on a scorching hot day, centralized energy grids can become overloaded and fail when everyone uses their air-conditioning systems at the same time. By decentralizing the sources of energy in this way, and taking advantage of energy storage solutions, this overloading can be avoided entirely. An open marketplace can also significantly reduce the cost of energy to the consumer.
Veridium is another project targeting the use of blockchain for sustainability, by tokenizing carbon credits. A carbon credit is a license for a country or organization to emit a particular volume of greenhouse gases. In the same way that blockchain allows the tokenization of other real-life assets such as real estate or diamonds, Veridium creates tokens that represent carbon credits, allowing easy international trading.
The company will also calculate the exact value of carbon credit that a company needs to offset its carbon footprint. From a corporate perspective, this reduces the barrier to using carbon credits and allows a quantitative measure of achieving sustainability objectives.
Blockchain and IoT technology is not only used for renewable energy, like the Eloncity model introduces. It also aims to revolutionize the entire supply chain logistics. Waltonchain, for example, is developing RFID (Radio Frequency Indicator) chips to transmit live data to the immutable blockchain, thereby allowing verification not only of the production process of a product, but the conditions of its transportation (moisture,
temperature, etc.) as well.
The transparency that follows Waltonchain’s technology will lead to a higher standard
not only in medical industries, but in food, cotton and many industries as well. If it succeeds, we will notice the decrease in all types of fraud, making stakeholders feel safer and increasing efficiency throughout the entire value chain.
Socially Responsible Organizations Will Win the Race
While technology has brought vast improvements to human life, it is important to remember that the use of technology is also a substantial contributing factor to climate change and energy consumption.
Therefore, projects and initiatives that deploy technology towards sustainability are not just important for their green credentials alone. They are crucial to enabling ongoing economic and technological development.
The decentralizing, democratic nature of blockchain technology could be a critical lever in ensuring a more energy-efficient future.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.