By Jaydeep Saha, Contributing Writer, HCL Technologies Ltd.
Last week, with heatwaves shrouding the UK, the country experienced the growing impact of climate change. London had the worst of the damage, with 41 homes being destroyed by fires and the London Fire Department having its busiest day since World War II. The maximum temperature broke records at 40.2° Celsius at Heathrow Airport.
Houses and buildings in Greater London and Wennington burned causing calls to the fire department to skyrocket to 1,600 from an average of 350. People were out in the streets pouring cold water on their heads and taking shelter under trees to save themselves from the heat — India experiences similar heat during 'May days' in New Delhi every year. The temperature in June even crossed the 50 degree mark in the capital and Rajasthan's Churu district for two consecutive years.
The UK was not alone. Wildfires killed over 1,700 people and forced thousands to flee their homes in France, Spain, and Portugal. In the Balkan region, firefighters responded to blazes in Croatia, Hungry and Greece. According to Reuters, officials are also struggling to contain blazes in Morocco, South Korea, parts of the US and elsewhere around the world.
What is causing this wide range of infernos?
Geographical definition: The air mass responsible for this extreme event originated in northwest Africa, with a heat dome and an area of low pressure just west of Iberia acting as a heat funnel.
Attribution studies of individual heatwaves have shown that by increasing the global average surface temperature by about 1.2°C in the past century, human-induced climate change has dramatically boosted the odds of extreme heat events, along with their intensity and duration.
Research has even shown certain heat extremes would have been virtually impossible without human-caused climate change.
According to the UK Health Security Agency, heatwaves caused an additional 2,000 deaths in 2020. Baroness Brown, deputy chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warned that figure is likely to triple in coming decades without government action. “We’ve been telling the government for over 10 years that we are not well-enough prepared in the UK for the really hot weather we are seeing now,” said Brown.
Average world temperatures have risen just over 1°C beyond levels seen before the industrial revolution. Society is now experiencing the hottest period for 125,000 years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Breaking up the GHG emission contributors
To tackle global warming, it’s important to know the sectors contributing most to carbon emissions. According to a 2021 study from the US, these are:
Electricity generation and heat production: 28%
Commercial and residential contribution: 11%
The technology industry accounts for 2-3 percent of global emissions. As technology continues to permeate every aspect of business and day-to-day lives, this figure is expected to accelerate significantly.
According to the IPCC, current levels of emissions must be reduced by 50 percent by 2030, with a minimum reduction of 43 percent.
Kalyan Kumar (KK), CTO and Head of Ecosystems at HCL Technologies, commented: “Technology is one of the biggest contributors of energy consumption, based on the high computing power and high storage processing power of GPUs. This worrying trend means the technology industry must focus on moving to net zero and adopt a green footprint across all aspects of their business: physical infrastructure, data centers, the cloud, and so on.”
The Emissions Gap Report 2021 says if implemented effectively, net-zero emissions pledges could limit warming to 2.2°C, closer to the well-below 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement.
Technology can serve as a solution to curbing these emissions. The industry can act as a major force for helping leading contributors of GHG and those companies willing to embrace sustainability initiatives embrace a mindset of “technology eco-advantage”. The role can be simple: With the usage of advanced eco-advantage technologies and ways of working to enable profitable solutions, a positive impact will be left on the climate and other environmental, social, and governance goals.
Technology investment is a common factor that ties all the greatest carbon emitting industries together. The adoption of Green IT – the practice of environmentally sustainable IT – is crucial in helping these industries achieve their net-zero targets.
Kumar confirmed: “Organizations must bake sustainability and energy efficiency into software products, hardware products and hybrid products. As every business is becoming a technology business by the end of the decade, the biggest green contributor is going to be tech. Tech must drive the adoption of green sustainability across enterprise.”
Methane is 28 to 36 times more potent in its global warming potential than CO2. Advanced technologies help players in the oil and gas industry quickly identify the source and location of fugitive emissions and then fix them in their gathering, transmission, and distribution lines.
Advanced technologies in steel production now make zero-carbon, 100 percent steel possible, which has the potential to reduce about nine percent of global CO2 emissions. The top five players in the steel industry in India are already in various stages of deploying this technology
JSW Steel's (ranked 19 on world list) chairman Sajjan Jindal said on Wednesday that the company has earmarked US$ 1.25 bn (₹10,000 crore) to increase the use of renewable energy and cut carbon emissions 42 percent by 2029–2030 compared to base year 2005.
Tata Steel (ranked 10 on world list) has partnered with Australia-based BHP, a leading global resources company, to jointly explore low carbon ‘iron and steelmaking’ technology. The partnership aims to help both companies progress toward their climate change goals, the steel major said on Wednesday.
- Advanced materials in solar power generation and storage technologies that no longer rely on rare earth materials drive investment in renewables by addressing existing challenges that may have hindered growth.
“Businesses and society no longer have a choice but to embrace sustainable ways. Nature-based solutions must be developed, and technology is a key enabler. Fossil fuels must be replaced with renewable energy sources,” said Santhosh Jayaram, Global Head, Sustainability, HCL Technologies.
He added that the key to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals include generating power through renewable sources, developing energy storage to increase renewables penetration, improving energy efficiency, electrifying industry, and managing carbon/methane. These are the top areas of focus in driving down carbon emissions to achieve climate change targets.
In addition, innovative business approaches, like HCL Technologies’ as-a-service models, allow customers to focus on their core operations while leaving the details of a decarbonization strategy to the experts boost decarbonization initiatives. This partnership approach increases uptake where sustainable initiatives are otherwise not sufficiently incentivized or where financing such projects is an issue.