What do the tech giants do to help prevent climate change?

Jeff Bezos talks about climate change in Paris

Major technology companies have adapted to demands to reduce their impact on the environment by reducing their carbon footprint to slow down the process of climate change. The tech giants of Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, IBM and others are adapting to climate change through innovations, which offer surprising results.

Cloud computing

The top players of cloud computing include Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon, who are competing to offer the best business platform. Cloud computing has financial and technological benefits but also environmental benefits. It reduces energy consumption, waste, and carbon emissions. In the report ‘The Carbon Benefits of Cloud Computing: A Study on the Microsoft Cloud,’ it was found that Microsoft cloud computing is 93 per cent energy efficient and has 98 per cent fewer carbon emissions than on-site data centres.

The decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions comes not just from the fall in energy use, but also because there is no onsite life-cycle to consider such as raw materials for equipment, its transport and use and disposal when it is no longer in use. Large companies can lessen per-user carbon footprint by 30 per cent, while smaller organisations can save up to 90 per cent. Cloud services also encourage people to use virtual services like video streaming instead of physical products.

One example of cloud computing in business is the latest in-play betting systems delivered through a private cloud. These free up databases and storage systems so that the firms can respond to the demands of in-play betting. Not only does the technology get the data out to customer’s dashboards in near real-time, but the software to store information is also in the cloud, with automatic updates that do not interfere with the user’s experience.

Cloud computing also means that printed documents are no longer needed. Signatures can be sent with a few clicks and documents are securely stored in the cloud. With no documents to archive and then eventually destroy, the negative environmental impact of business is reduced further. In addition, most cloud data centres are using renewable sources of energy to power their operations. The use of solar, geothermal, hydropower resources and the wind has reduced carbon emissions by millions of metric tons.

Amazon

Amazon, like all the large tech companies, has a reputation for being secretive and particularly keep any critique by its employees private. Yet in the past year, Google has also broken this pattern on various issues that employees feel demand that they speak up.

Amazon employees have followed in making public their assessment of the company’s business. In April 2019, over 3,5000 Amazon employees published a letter sent to CEO Jeff Bezos, demanding a comprehensive climate-change plan for the firm. The letter has asked Bezos and the board of directors, for “a complete transition away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon offsets” and for climate impact to be a priority in all business decisions.

The demands came after Amazon announced its Shipment Zero programme in February which aims to reach 50 per cent of all Amazon shipments with net zero carbon by 2030. This new goal gave the Amazon employee group the spark to come together to speak out against something so important to all of them. To become corporate activists, either because they see the business opportunity that opens up when moving away from carbon, or because of deep concern for the environment or the world, their children will inherit.

Google

Across the globe, thousands of cities and regions have signed up to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, as part of the growing climate change movement. Most do not have access to scientists to help them know where to start in their locale, but in September 2018, month as part of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Google announced that it had begun to estimate greenhouse-gas emissions for some cities, as part of an ambitious new plan to help local leaders deal with climate change.

Google Earth is first aiming to create an emissions inventory so that the current situation is understood and can be the basis to inform future plans. There is no information about specific expansion plans, but it does want to cover municipalities worldwide.

Taking data from its mapping apps Google Maps and Waze, Google is also able to provide estimates of a city’s annual driving, biking, and transit travellers, information that has never before been made public. The company is also considering sharing even more specific data types with individual local governments.

Google’s new project, which it has named Environmental Insights Explorer is limited in providing data estimating carbon emissions from electricity and transportation only, and not heavy industry and agriculture. Google also has to use data going back six years to make its calculations. Yet for all the negatives, the data is helpful in showing where to focus attention. The project also integrates some data from Project Sunroof, a Google programme which aims to make it easier to install rooftop solar panels.

High precision records

As part of its data collection, the Google Street View car has been equipped with a high-precision methane sensor. In June 2019, researchers discovered that methane emissions from ammonia fertiliser plants were 100 times higher than the industry's self-reported estimate and substantially higher than the Environmental Protection Agency estimate for all industrial processes in the United States.

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