Where Does Tech Stand On Climate Change?
There’s been a lot of talk about climate change the past few years, and as the new federal administration kicks off with a completely revamped national strategy, we decided to check out tech’s stance on climate change. How are the digital strongholds coordinating with the government, setting the standards for both the public and private sectors?
For years, talk about global warming fell on deaf ears. The scientific community has been able to slowly encourage private industries, and governments around the world began to acknowledge climate change’s rapidness is due to human-contribution and disruption to our earth. NASA’s website clearly categorizes global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreating, deceased snow cover, sea levels rising, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification as climate change evidence. And most of us have felt sudden extreme weather or a modified climate overtime. What’s exceptionally disturbing about “overtime” is that for our world, a single generation has observed the differences, the noticeable trend is shockingly fast. The effects of climate change are not just needs for ample equipment and rescue service, it’s not just the extinction of countless animals and plants. It also causes financial, health, real estate, and logistics issues for every country around the world. In short, our negative industrialized contributions to our earth are causing millions, even billions of human and non-human lives to be wrecked within the reasonable future. So it’s justifiable to inquire what the wealthiest, largest, and smartest companies are planning to give to the solution(s) of this world-wide threat.
The largest tech companies in the world have outlined a few directions of their leadership on climate change. The key is to slow down, stop, and ideally reverse greenhouse gas emissions. This can be achieved by producing more sustainable products, optimizing energy use, and resourcing our energy. These private businesses have five courses of action towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and attempting to slow climate change.
First, major tech companies are promising to stop the relationships with large oil & gas extraction. As Greenpeace’s Senior Climate Campaigner, Elizabeth Jardim exposed last May, “Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have all made public commitments to cut their carbon emissions, yet, they are at the same time supporting the very industry we have to blame for global warming. These lucrative contracts completely undermine their own climate goals.” Big tech companies have sold technologies to the fossil fuel industry for years. This helps oil & gas companies optimize the exact actions needed to stop climate change. Specifically, they sold “bespoke artificial intelligence (AI) software for oil and gas extraction.” It’s reported that in 2018, fossil fuel companies spent almost $2B on these technologies. After these contracts were brought fourth to the public again, Google promised to stop the partnerships. The other two companies have not commented. Every little bit counts.
The next course of action big tech is forging is to become “net neutral.” Last year, Microsoft published their detailed plan to become “carbon negative by 2030.” And Amazon pledges to become net neutral by 2040. Yes, this means offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by planting loads of trees. Reforesting our planet is a spectacular way to off-set energy use of enormous data housing and logistics created by these companies. But it also means investing in recycled packaging, and EV delivery trucks. Amazon has taken the lead with this last point. As written in Forbes, “Amazon Inches Toward Carbon Neutrality Goal With StreetScooter Electric Truck Partnership.” Amazon is investing in lots of electric vehicles to cut back on oil & gas consumption with their delivery trucks. First, big tech needs to stop supporting the vilifiers, and then they plan to become “net neutral” internally. Still, those are great actions for the exemplifying companies, but still underwhelming for the leaders of the business world.
The third course leading tech companies are taking to decarbonize the earth is investing in nimble startups whose sole focus is to solve climate change. Startups like CarbonCure which produces a technology that incorporates CO2 into concrete and reduces its carbon footprint without compromising performance. Or TurnTide which is optimizing the energy consumption and usage for every motor on the planet. Kara Hurst, Amazon’s global lead on sustainability commented recently on the company’s startup investments, “Each one has something very different to offer. But, there is a unifying theme that they are driving decarbonization and they have the potential to lower our carbon footprint.” This is a huge example tech companies individually, and the industry at large, can set. They can financially support smaller, specialized companies that are spearheading the science to overturn greenhouse gases and develop new efficient energy developing technologies.
An additional movement tech can lead to solve climate change is to clarify climate change information. Yes, the elephant in the room would be search engine optimization. They can literally lead audiences to scientifically correct information about the world’s adaptation to climate. But they can also financially support think tanks, organizations, and NGOs that are rallying and communicating accurate information to the masses. Ethical Consumer reports,” Google lists on its website political groups to whom it gives “the most substantial contributions.” In October 2019, the Guardian noted that the list includes free-market think tanks well known for spreading climate denial misinformation, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and the American Enterprise Institute.” The article continues,”New York Times obtained the list of donors for a recent gala organized by the CEI. Google, Amazon and Verizon were all listed.” Given the last year, we know more than ever, accurate information, real news, is critical for group-thought, and group-action. If we want our world to rid-greenhouse gases and effectively save our planet, big tech needs to filter and financially sustain factual information and communication.
Last, but not least, prominent tech companies and leadership need to partner with governments to curb climate change. A united private and public sector front will quicken and amplify the results. The New York Times wrote, both Britain and the European Union now require their countries to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The infamous Paris Climate Agreement, signed in 2016, was a critical exhaustive agreement between 196 countries to make Climate Change a Priority. When our past president Trump pulled the US out of the agreement, big tech stepped up. In fact, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon all signed the “we’re still in” campaign promising to continue to “pursue ambition climate goals… as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2 (degrees Celsius.)" The united front creates a clear message to their users and the world community. Climate change is a priority for all of us. Companies like Tesla are stepping up to solve cumbersome, slow and expensive government climate solutions. In 2016, there were state-wide blackout in Australia. Via Twitter, Mike Cannon-Brookes (the Australian Billionaire) asked Elon Musk, “ If I can make the $ happen ( & politics), can you guarantee the 100MW in 100 days?” A quick response by the Tesla CEO guaranteed sustainable light within 100 days, or “it is free”. Sure enough, 56 days later, Tesla installed the world’s largest lithium-ion battery, the 100MW Hornsdale Power Reserve. It took two tech billionaires minutes to communicate and agree on solving a sustainable energy crisis. The Australian government partnered accordingly, and more sustainable energy storage is being used today. This cohesiveness between private and public sectors is a must for climate change and government lobbying firms like the Digital Climate Alliance, are counter-ensuring digital solutions that are part of climate policy. DCA specifically groups tech companies to encourage the government to support an incentive-led market to reduce emissions. They are making a clear “tech team” voice to pressure governments to create financial incentives for private producers and suppliers to reduce emissions. Whether government imposes financial incentives, or private companies lead the way, it's critical for them to work together in order to overcome climate change.
It wasn’t long ago when we heard snickering over global warming whispers. But thankfully, the world has taken a stand with science. We need to fight together. Big Tech has great influence over our economy, culture, and planet. They are cutting off ties with greenhouse gas emission industries, strategizing their own “net neutral” KPIs, investing in nimble startups with the right mission, communicating accurate information to their users, and partnering with governments to overcome this critical crisis that faces us today.