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What's left of the UN climate summit 

Something has to be done about the climate crisis, that’s a given. The question is rather "What do we want to do about the climate crisis?” Over the past few days, the world has been looking eagerly to Glasgow, where the COP26 took place. Our columnist Markus Sekulla looked at the results. His hope lies in technological development – and all the little things, everbody can do on his or her own. 

No matter where you look these days, the topic of the climate crisis is not far away. Just about every company is currently taking up the cause of sustainability. Apart from a few cases of greenwashing, I think this development is really great. Here plastic is avoided, there a smart / more energy-efficient solution is used and again somewhere else the use of fossil fuels are eliminated. I celebrate this trend and have been trying to get to the bottom of the topic for a few years now.

The question I hear most is: Is any of this doing any good? I've heard that in other countries... What follows is an explanation of why personal renunciation isn't even necessary, but corporations and politics should fix it. If they beat it up, then at least you don't have yourself to blame and a scapegoat. Personally, I would like to make my contribution first, no matter how small it seems to be, and then ask organizations to do their share. But more about my share later...

What happens elsewhere are blockbuster events like COP26. The UN World Climate Conference 2021 was an eagerly awaited event to which many high-ranking representatives from business and politics - some of them in private jets - made their way. Discussions were held on how the target of a maximum of 1.5 degrees of global warming can be achieved after all, although it is not realistic at present - assuming CO2 emissions remain constant. The IEA energy agency has analyzed that the new agreements and targets announced in Glasgow would lead the Earth to warm to 1.8 degrees.

How are the results of the COP26 to be assessed? Here is a brief overview:

The Cop26 message? We are trusting big business, not states, to fix the climate crisisThe Guardian

COP26: What was agreed at the Glasgow climate conference?BBC

If you take a cross-section of opinions, the sentence from The Spiegel article sticks with me: “The best result the world was prepared to for.” Please let that sink in for a moment. 

In addition to companies, politics and personal renunciation, what else is often mentioned as a weapon in the fight against the climate: Technology. And rightly so. Wrongly, however, we often hear that efectful technologies still need to be developed to get us on the right track. I believe that the innovations that already exist may well be enough to stop climate change. Many technologies and innovations fail simply because of scaling and consumer behavior. 

How Tech Helps Our Fight Against Climate Crisis

In general, technologies can be divided into two categories: a) those that avoid CO2 and b) those that can pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. A comparison to soccer comes to mind. The fewer goals a team concedes, the fewer the team has to score to win the game. Translated: The less CO2 we pump into the atmosphere, the less we have to take out of it. Especially since carbon capture technologies are really still in their infancy. A good example here is the Orca project in Iceland, which pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere and stores it in the ground. So, it's sort of the counter project to coal mining. Here is an informative article on this from the Guardian: World’s biggest machine capturing carbon from air turned on in Iceland

And a classic option to be mentioned: Tree, the. Noun, masculine. At first glance, it has nothing to do with technology. And yet, with the Ecosia search engine, you plant trees with your searches - or rather, with the advertising revenue generated by the Berlin-based start-up. 

Let's move on to the much bigger tech projects: Those designed to avoid CO2. A comprehensive enumeration is almost impossible, there are so many projects. We all know about wind turbines, train travel, home office days, vegan food and the Circular Economy. In addition, the construction, transportation, and energy industries, and countless start-ups, are looking at finding new ways to disruptively challenge old technologies to release fewer emissions. Artificial intelligence (e.g., for process optimization) or blockchain concepts (e.g., for supply chains) can also support more efficient operations and thus avoid CO2.

In this context, technology can be viewed from several angles. This ranges from smart thermostats in one's own four walls to processes for fuel production that do not require the use of fossil resources. Innovations to avoid and/or better recycle plastic is also a big and important topic. What seems clear is that without more efficient management of energy through technological advancement, it will be very difficult to save the planet in. 

What can I do?

Of course, there are hundreds of tips for a climate-friendly lifestyle. Vegan diet, no long-distance travel and so on. Here are a few tech- tips on how you don't have to change part of your life to help:

  • Use smart thermostats
  • Install Ecosia search engine
  • Become a heavy user of classifieds ab and use the search notification function for things that you don’t need urgently
  • Send emails without attachments if possible
  • Buy technology like smartphones as rarely as possible
  • Pay attention to the energy efficiency when buying new technology (keyword: A+++)
  • Camera off at Zoom/Teams calls
  • Do not stream YouTube in best HD quality

Feel free to write your tips in the comments!

Tl;dr

If we all act in a more climate-friendly way, the innovative power of companies does not slow down and politics does its regulatory part, then we may still be able to stay below the maximum of 1.5 degrees. What we must not do, however, is rely on someone else to save the world. We all can and should do our part.

Here are some more links for your further reading:

Check your personal footprint

https://www.footprintcalculator.org/

El Pais - The Spanish smart building that will fight the effects of climate change

https://english.elpais.com/elpais/2017/10/05/inenglish/1507190381_684984.html?rel=buscador_noticias

Climate psychologist says neither gloom-and-doom nor extreme solution-obsessed optimism is the best way to discuss climate change productively

https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2021/09/26/how-to-discuss-climate-change-productively.html

Text: Markus Sekulla