Technology's impact on climate change

on November 1, 2021

Technology has played an interesting role throughout history with respect to climate change. It’s first major impact was in the 1880s during the Second Industrial Revolution — also known as the Technological Revolution — when coal was first used to generate electricity for homes and factories.

At the time, this advancement was filled with only hope, but as we’ve seen, it has come with consequences. Early technological advancements in the 1800s helped people power homes and businesses — yet, at the same time, lead to more carbon emissions.

So as you can see, there’s a catch twenty-two behind technology. Today’s technological advancements are greener and more conscious of environmental impact than in the past. With new knowledge and discoveries after the 1800s, society is in a much better position to maximize energy production and consumption in an energy efficient manner.

Before we look to the future and discuss how technology will enhance renewable resources, let’s first take a look at how technology has influenced climate change over time.

How technology has been both instrumental and detrimental to climate change

We live in the most advanced time in technological innovation. Unfortunately though, early technological advancements were hardly environmentally conscious. Coal was first used in the 1880s, but on a minor scale. However, by 1961, it had become the primary fossil fuel used to generate electricity, per the U.S. Department of Energy.

Thanks to scientists we have been able to uncover the harsh impact of burnt fossil fuels. Unfortunately though, we still use coal and natural gas to generate electricity. As technology has advanced, so has the number of tech gadgets made available to consumers. This increases energy consumption — directly leading to more fossil fuels being burned.

Modern planes, cars, trains and ships have made it possible for us to travel all around the world. But their technological developments, along with the number of people driving and traveling — has led to more carbon emissions. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “The U.S. transportation sector is responsible for about a third of our country’s climate-changing emissions.”

In case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. population continues to grow year over year — which means there will only be more drivers and travelers. New technological advancements such as electric transportation, will help alleviate the impact of carbon emitting modes of transportation.

How the future of technology can positively influence climate change

A recent scientific report that was issued by 13 federal agencies, shows the critical state of climate change. The 1,656 page report lays out the effects that climate change will continue to have on society.

According to the New York Times, “Climate change could slash up to a tenth of gross domestic product by 2100, more than double the losses of the Great Recession a decade ago.” To sustain our economy, we need to depend on more renewable forms of technology, so that we can limit the burning of fossil fuels.

The people behind today’s technological advancements are starting to shift their focus towards stopping global warming in its tracks. The Environmental Defense Fund is stepping up to the plate and dedicating its latest technological advancement to stopping methane emissions.

EDF President Fred Krupp, unveiled the groundbreaking project known as MethaneSAT, which will gather data about methane. According to EDF, “We’re building a new satellite designed specifically to pinpoint the location and magnitude of methane emissions virtually anywhere on Earth.”

Reducing methane emissions and cutting our carbon footprints will help ensure we continue to build upon technological innovation while taking care of the planet. With major corporations dedicating funds and resources to solar and wind technology, our society can position itself to reduce global warming.

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