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Digital technology could help the world go greener

(Image credit: Image Credit: Moon Light PhotoStudio / Shutterstock)

Businesses worldwide could significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases through the use of state-of-the-art technology. This is according to a new report from the Royal Society, which claims that advanced tech could allow companies to eliminate almost a third of carbon emissions by 2030.

Digital technology - which in this case includes smart meters, supercomputers, weather modelling, AI and more – could contribute to cutting emissions by anywhere between 1.4 percent and 5.9 percent.

For example, tech companies could schedule their computing activities for times of peak renewable supply, to make sure they take maximum advantage of the potential of renewable energy.

The Royal Society’s report has identified four key areas which, if targeted, could help achieve the goal of a low carbon future:

  • Building a trusted data infrastructure for net zero
  • Optimizing digital carbon footprint
  • Establishing a data-enabled net zero economy
  • Setting research and innovation challenges to digitalize the net zero transition

“Transparent technology can benefit consumers, the technology sector and the planet. If more people are confident in moving their computing onto the cloud, energy savings are possible using more efficient data centers,” said Professor Andy Hopper FREng FRS, Vice President of the Royal Society and Professor of Computer Technology, at the University of Cambridge.

“We must stay alert to digital demand outpacing the carbon emission reductions this transition promises. But this report shows how addressing barriers to innovation and harnessing the potential of our technology can make a sustainable net-zero future a reality.”

The report also argues that the UK has a major role to play in this endeavor, for multiple reasons, including the fact that it will host the UN COP26 climate conference in 2021 and is a global leader in fields like machine learning.

National and international frameworks for collecting, sharing and using data for net zero applications also need to be established, claims the report. A taskforce for digitalization of the net zero transition needs to be set up, to identify priorities across sectors and work with tech companies to ensure systems can be scrutinized.

The UK could also force organizations to publicly share data about their emissions, especially those that run their own datacenters, it was stressed.