William Guinaudie: Will technology save us from the climate crisis ?
Written by William Guinaudie
Edited by Flore Crétel
As someone who loves computers and reading about cutting edge technologies, I wanted to believe that technological progress will be what saves us from climate change. However, I have come to realize that it won’t and instead might help escalate the problem. According to a study from Lancaster university, the overreliance on promises of new technology to solve climate change is enabling delay and increasing the issue.
This isn’t to say that technology isn’t important in our fight with climate change: Firstly, it helped us detect that something was wrong, through satellite imagery and precise measuring tools to monitor the environment. It has allowed us to find new ways to harness the different forces of nature and transform them into usable energies. Electric vehicles have started to appear on our roads which would help decrease transportation emissions.
While all these innovations are great, they also have a cost, such as biodiversity destruction due to rare minerals mining, manufacturing emissions (1.9 billion phones were sold in 2018) and ewaste (Reports in 2019 suggested that there were currently just under 50 million tonnes of e-waste, with only 20% of it being dealt with appropriately). Additionally, they do not help us tackle the main issue: The world energy consumption continues to grow year by year. Moreover, The rebound effect which is the increase in (technical) energy efficiency that causes a less than proportionate reduction in energy use, is in full effect.
Low technology can be an alternative solution, opposed to high technology which incorporate advanced features. Low tech refers to a traditional or non-mechanical kind, such as crafts and tools that pre-date the Industrial Revolution. In terms of sustainability low-tech has the advantage to be a lot less demanding in energy. For example, passive architecture and design such as day lightning is more sustainable and cheaper in the long term compared to cutting edge electronic lighting techniques.
However, Innovation is still key. Traditional methods are a great base to get inspiration from but adding more modern knowledge to old traditional methods is important to make it more efficient, more sustainable, more handy or even more affordable. For example Oceanbird’s cargo ship is a prototype for future cargos which would rely on wind energy and would lower emissions by 90%.
I believe that technology can help tackle climate change especially in research, but it is not the solution that we should be waiting for. The only way that technology can help in our fight, is if we look back at low tech solutions which would allow us to reduce our limitless energy consumption needs. In addition, of giving up some of our privileges…