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Google Cloud Strategy, Sustainability

Can Technology Help Solve Climate Change?

By Sabina Bhasin | April 26, 2021

The human pursuit of solving challenges is the cornerstone of progress. Some could argue that technology is simply that desire, amplified. But what happens when we've solved so well, our iteration of efficiencies and productivity is becoming dangerous? 

Barry Schwartz, an emeritus professor of psychology at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, researched efficiencies and when frictions occur - when does efficiency become a bad thing? 

"Some motivation produces excellent performance; too much motivation produces choking. Some group collaboration produces cohesion and enhances productivity; too much of it leads to staleness. Some empathy enables you to understand what another person is going through; too much could prevent you from saying and doing hard things," Schwartz wrote. 

And, in this case, the "bad thing" is efficiency. But can what got us here also get us out - can technology solve climate change? 

The answer lies somewhere between yes and no, as most complicated solutions do. Still, perhaps prompted by the ongoing pandemic, some companies' efforts have directed curiosity toward climate change, honestly acknowledging that decisions today will shape our futures to come. 


How Technology Can Also Get Us Through 


Google has been carbon-neutral since 2007 and is working toward being carbon-free by 2030. 

"...that's 24 hours a day, seven days a week at all of our data centers across the world," said Mark Innes, VP, Australia, and New Zealand and Asia Pacific Industry Verticals. 

"We're building tools and technologies to help others improve the planet, and for us at Google Cloud, that means building new tools and technologies to help our cloud customers track and report on the impact of their own IT operations," Innes said. "Every customer that comes to Google Cloud automatically reduces their emissions running on our programs."

Deloitte is also working toward being carbon-free by 2030, and one way they're doing so is by reducing travel, and increasing virtual hybrid was of working. They are also "pairing their buildings with 100 percent renewable energy," said Richard Deutsch, Chief Executive Officer of Deloitte, Australia. 

For example, Google Cloud looked at the millions of miles UPS trucks traveled, Innes explained. 

"We created algorithms in conjunction with UPS to look at those tracking routes to optimize those routes, Innes said. "UPS now saves $400M per year and has reduced fuel consumption by 10M gallons per year, just by using those algorithms."

There are other companies, too. Organic Valley, for example, arms its farmers with solar energy resources and gives them complete control over their farms. 

But there are countless examples. Most recently, these 11 organizations in Europe received funding support from Google to instigate positive environmental change.

For example, Materiom provides open data on how to make materials that nourish local economies and ecologies. They're working following the FAIR digital Object Framework, "which help enable the FAIR Data Principles of Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable." To do this, they use Corda and an extended implementation of schema.org. 

"The platform will enable Linked Data, or Semantic Web technology allowing data to be shared and reused between applications, organizations, and communities. Data from numerous distributed producers will be referenced with unique, persistent identifiers, and a public-facing API will enable the community to develop apps for reading and writing data. Our use of schema.org/DefinedTerm will enable agile development in response to user needs as we contribute to an emerging vocabulary for biomaterials across communities of research and practice."


Get to know them and the ten other companies in the clip below. 



Curious about your climate impact? 


Deloitte whipped up an interactive quiz to help companies and individuals alike answer that impact question. 

Trvst, a social impact agency, breaks down reasons for why and how technology impacts the environment and what can be done about it. 

You can also learn how Google is working with digital-native companies across the globe to build a greener future. 


Stay with C2C all week; we'll have more content and events coming up to keep you thinking about how you, too, can work toward creating a healthier world. 

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