Innovation is currently driving the global economy. The opportunities that it creates is making our lives easier. Whether it is shopping for grocery online or traveling in self-driving cars, technology is advancing every day.
But we can’t deny the fact that the biggest sustainability issues have occurred due to advancements in technology.
The internal combustion engine and electricity production have enriched lives. But both of them are the largest sources of greenhouse gases and particulates that have been linked to the deadliest diseases in the world.
So, is it possible to deal with the current global challenges with the help of technology? Let’s find out!!
Technology Dealing with Global Challenges
Learning from the past mistakes is the best innovation. And the top technology experts are working on the new solutions that can fulfill our needs without affecting the beauty of the world.
Here are some of the ways in which technology is dealing with global challenges!
1. Diagnosing and Treatment of Diseases
One of the biggest concerns of mankind is healthcare. Although today’s technologies have helped improve life, the likelihood of experiencing degenerative diseases has also increased. From Dementia to cancer, there are many life-threatening diseases, but we still don’t have a cure for them.
Even when you are aware of the consequences, you have not figured how to reduce them. In fact, a few diseases don’t have certain causes.
They can potentially affect anyone. It is in the best interest to devote time and resources to comprehend them. That is when technology drives in.
Artificial intelligence or AI plays a key role in healthcare. With the machine learning algorithm, researchers are working on novel non-invasive ways to diagnose degenerative brain disorders that take place in their early stages.
The way they are doing it is with the help of predictive analysis that can detect subtle but meaningful patterns that you may overlook.
Diagnoses aren’t the focus of AI-based tools. The UK bio-pharmaceutical AstraZeneca and American biotechnology company BERG collaborated with new medicine in order to treat patients fighting against Parkinson.
Finding how challenging and complex the disease actually is, the aglo finds new biomarkers that give a deeper understanding of the disease leading to new treatments.
BenevolentAI is another Artificial Intelligence project that aims to bring therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS is also called Lou Gehring’s disease).
This particular disease has no treatment whatsoever but the finding of the complex technology seems promising.
Global warming is humanity’s existential challenge. The Paris Agreement plans to cut emissions so that the temperature rises below two degrees Celsius. However, goal achievement is unclear.
ING has recently published the ‘Positive Tech Scenario’, that gives an optimistic and realistic path for technology that substitutes fossil fuels in the energy in sensitive sectors.
When it comes to an electric vehicle in transportation, heat pumps in buildings, electrification of the industrial process, and renewable energy in the power sector.
It eventually concludes that technology has the power to reduce energy-related emissions by 64% in 2050. In the long term, the dream of a low-carbon economy is now feasible but 2030 targets are being missed.
It takes a lot of time before the technology reaches a sufficient scale to make a huge impact.
There is a requirement of other technologies as well. One part of the solution is proposed by Canada’s Carbon Engineering, Switzerland’s Climeworks, and others.
This could help in removing some 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide that are put into the air every year and then using it as replacement fuel or fertilizer. This has been technically possible for decades but is quite expensive.
Carbon Engineering has the answer. It takes the help of renewable energy to power water electrolysis and fuel synthesis to produce clean liquid hydrocarbon fuels.
They are quite compatible with the existing engines. Although it is still at a prototype stage, the process has the ability to extract carbon dioxide at a cost six times lower than originally hypothesized.
According to Harvard University’s professor David Keith, the founder of the company, costs can be cut further. This is “industrial technology that is doable and develops in a useful way.
The global warming equation is the need to reduce new emissions. Renewable is a key part of all country’s strategies: costs have plummeted and renewable is viable without subsiding in any market.
The sector has still not evolved as some anticipated. When renewable first appeared, it was expected that the electricity production would become increasingly localized via domestic solar panels.
This would reduce transmission losses and lower carbon emissions. However, progress has been slow to date.
One new development could accelerate change. Physee has developed windows that include sensors to help manage ventilation and sun blinds, based on internal and external conditions.
The windows integrates solar technology: overall, energy consumption reduces as much as 20%. Our mission is to make buildings comfortable self-thinking power plants.
In June, ING Real Estate Finance (REF) signed a partnership agreement with Physee to enable clients to do a PHYSEEbilirt check via the ING REF Sustainable App.
With the help of these clients in the Netherlands, you can see how they can make their property portfolio greener and save it.
The Energy Robot, recently introduced by ING REF, takes this a step further. It takes the help of big data, algorithms, and information from smart energy meters in building to automatically compare data 24hours a day.
This can identify an energy-saving potential of upto 15%, which in aggregate amounts to half the total sustainably-generated in the Netherlands.
Rising of the global temperature is a major threat to all individuals. Decreasing the greenhouse gas emission can’t be sufficient to check the global temperature.
The removal of carbon dioxide helps in reducing the temperature. But, that will be very expensive.
Nowadays, many startups are looking for different ways to recycle carbon dioxide in products like synthetic fuels, carbon fiber, polymer, and concrete.
This may be helpful but you still require the most cost-effective way to completely store billion tons of carbon dioxide. As a result of this, carbon dioxide drives out from the atmosphere.
Cutting Urban Population
Another major challenge related to tackling climate change is emerging markets. The economies, population and cities are growing faster than developed countries while some of the technologies they currently use extremely polluting.
In Thailand, auto rickshaws known as tuk-tuks are ubiquitous. On an estimate- 20,000 operate, creating almost 100,000 tons of CO2 a year, according to Michel Hublet (Sales and marketing director at Tuk Tuk Factory).
This was a Dutch company that manufactures electric tuk-tuks in Thailand. And in the Philippines 200, 000 diesel jeepneys which is a long-wheelbase minibus based on a US army jeep produce 22,000 tons of soot a year, as per Asian Development Bank.
Reducing this pollution is quite challenging, in the absence of urban rail or another low impact public transport, tuk-tuks and jeepneys are public transport.
And, the electric powertrain is usually prohibitively expensive; for many people in the West driving a Tesla is as much about showing off their wealth as their environmental credentials.
The advancement in electric vehicles and batteries means that relatively low-cost electric versions especially batteries mean that relatively low-cost electric versions.
To make the switch easier, the Thai government is earmarking 3 million to encourage 100 tuk-tuk owners to switch to electric power in a pilot.
Well, Philippine’s government is providing .5 billion (€24 million) in loan to help jeepney cooperatives to purchase new vehicles. It has planned to phase out existing jeepneys over three years.
Grid-scale Energy Storage
Renewable sources like wind and solar are becoming discounted and the government in various countries are deploying them widely.
But they fail to generate electricity when the sun is not shining or wind is not blowing. Still, there are some countries that are trying to generate some amount of energy. By this they can deviate from secure sources like coal and natural gas.
The cost of building enough batteries is too much for providing backup to the total networks for days when renewable generation standards will be excessive. Many are trying to build cheaper forms of grid-scale that persist for a longer period.
Cleaning Land and Ocean
One of the common symptoms of the unsustainable world is garbage (it can be on land or water).
As per the World Bank, the cities of the world generated 2.01 billion tons of household and commercial waste.
And the rapid population growth and urbanization mean that annual waste generation may increase by 70% from 2016 level to 3.40 billion tons in 2050.
There are plenty of tiny pieces of plastic, ‘microplastics’ that are floating across various oceans.
The major source is bags or straws that are broken up over time. It is very harmful to birds, fishes as well as humans.
As per research, the effects on human health and the environment will be intense and will take uncountable years to clean plastic as they are accumulated over the decades.
As the population is increasing every day, it becomes challenging to clean up. But there are prototype methods for undertaking the massive garbage.
Improved recycling efficiency is required to reduce landfill and stop industrial and domestic waste from getting in the rivers or water bodies as it is continuously damaging the ecosystem.
Also with the help of innovative ideas to capture and transform waste.
One high profile example is Dutch organization Ocean Cleanup begun in September towing a 600-meter boom to the Pacific.
In the Pacific, it will collect some 5 trillion plastic pieces from water bodies. The system is propels wind and waves while collecting plastic for six months before returning to land for the recycling process.
On land, discovery of a microbe in Japan in 2016 naturally eats plastic spurred research to increase its efficiency.
Scientists of UK’s University of Portsmouth and US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory have worked on enzyme structure.
They have found that the bacteria accidentally created a ‘mutant enzyme’ that has the caliber of breaking down plastic within a few days.
With the help of this enzyme, plastic converts into the original component. So it can literally be recycled back to plastic, according to John McGeehan at the University of Portsmouth.
Disaster predictions weeks in advance. Then there are some that still hit without prior notification. Earthquakes, hydrological fluctuations, tsunamis etc. come with a certain degree of surprise.
When you are able to predict all of that with a good amount of confidence. It helps in planning better contingency in the short, mid and long-term. Even a simple alarm that is able to predict an alarm a few hours before the disaster will be of great help in facing a disaster.
Disaster Prevention Research Institute of Kyoto is what they are trying to achieve. They are developing creative technologies that will help in predicting floods, landslides with the help of remote sensing. The spatiotemporal modeling of disasters helps to move disaster prediction forward. Furthermore, it is developing a system that gives an accurate warning.
In addition to this, IBM is also using its powerful Artificial Intelligence suite Watson to study volcanoes.
They want to know which volcano is on its verge of getting erupt. Though the company is working on it for several years now, achieving the goal is important.
However, the company is still hopeful to come up with an innovative solution.
Technology for Mankind
The aforementioned are a few examples to depict that technology can serve a greater purpose. While helping to face the biggest challenges in the modern world. Most of them are quite promising enough to renew faith in what technology has to offer.
Well, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep a vigilant eye on the tech development and the purposes. But the use cases come to depict that technology has managed to overcome many issues.