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A summer of floods and fire… It’s time to escape the prison of the past

It’s been another summer of floods and fire, and all eyes are on Glasgow where COP26 meets this week ( a pivotal moment for the Planet, and a chance to step back from the brink, chastened by decades of extreme weather events that have radically eroded biodiversity, food production and water availability. Obviously we can’t go on like this, and Glasgow is a chance (perhaps the last best chance) to change that fatal trajectory. But, as delegates from across the world take to the conference room, they’ll also grapple with a political divide: historically richer countries, that fuelled the industrial revolution in the first place, are still benefiting from a legacy of coal and carbon. But emerging nations, including leviathans like China and India, were largely rural economies two hundred years ago, before coal started to relentlessly tear its way through the environment. So why should they listen to legacy economies that now lecture them to turn from coal? 


Perhaps that’s why President Xi Jinping of China probably won’t be in Glasgow at all…even as the fires rage and the floods continue to devastate our precious planet. But it doesn’t have to be that way…we can still unshackle ourselves from the recriminations of history: we still have it in our power to build the world back better.


Because Emerging Technologies, the primal cause of the crisis two hundred years ago, have now become today’s solution…a platform around which to build a common cause.


The Cutting Edge of Climate Change

Big Data is currently being used to accurately pinpoint  (and reduce) harmful emissions across global supply chains, and advanced 3D printing technologies can (and do) work to significantly reduce manufacturing waste. Narrow range energy efficiency levels can be radically improved through adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), with smart meters, for example, producing reliable estimates of future energy demand and feeding back to help optimise source levels of energy production. Data points too can be connected across huge distances by way of 5G smart grids: locking together output from wind turbines and solar panel farms for more effective distribution of energy, in the process rationalising the availability of electrical charging terminals (which means more electric cars, and that has to be a good thing).


A Key Enabler

Taken together, these new technologies are a key enabler for a better assessment, mitigation and eventual roll back of climate change…without the need for picking over the intricate details of who did what and when two hundred years ago. 


So once the great and good meet in Glasgow this week, item one on their agenda should be how best to introduce policies and regulatory structures that better enable those emerging technologies, better facilitate international cooperation to make sure our children and grandchildren don’t have to live through an age of fire and flood again… in short, let's start to build the world again with all the extraordinary resources at our disposal, but let’s start doing it now.


It’s time to escape the prison of the past.


Executive Overview

Emerging technologies can do so more than open up opportunities for the future: they can also unlock the past, and nowhere is that more important than current climate change policy.


I hope the world is listening…


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Suchit Punnose

Suchit Punnose / About Author

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