Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.
In 2015, 92% of the worldwide disasters were climate related. The economic cost of these disasters was US$63.6 billion, and more than 100 million people were affected. As world leaders around the globe join together to help combat climate change, technology is doing its part too. It is providing tools to help people before, during, and after disasters so the impact of climate-related incidents can either be minimized or avoided. Plus, the effective use of technology can help abate roughly 20% of projected greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Consider this: In 2015, 92% of the worldwide disasters were climate related, according to the 2016 World Disasters Report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The report says this is a trend that has been escalating over the last 20 years, noting that “climate change will lead to an increase in frequency and severity of future disasters.”
In 2015, the economic cost of these disasters was $63.6 billion compared to $99.2 billion in 2014, with more than 100 million people affected. China is one of the most disaster-affected countries in the world, with drought, storms, and floods disrupting more than 58 million people. Worldwide, extreme temperatures, floods, landslides, and storms accounted for 90% of all natural disasters in 2015 and were responsible for 58% of the disaster-affected deaths. Floods in India, Pakistan, and the Balkans were some of the most severe. Drought is also a major concern, as it affected 49% of all people last year. In fact, the report calls drought a “silent disaster” that severely affects the economic well-being of millions of people, especially in the Sahel region of Africa. According to the United Nations Development Program, in the last two years more than 40 million people were forced either permanently or temporarily from their homes by weather-related disasters, mainly in countries which contribute least to climate change.
Climate change is a threat to rich and poor alike. Disasters in 2017 will likely be as impactful, with more world-shattering events like the floods across Bangladesh, India, and Nepal; hurricanes like Irma and Harvey; and devastating droughts in sub-Saharan Africa, Brazil, Korea, and the United States.
One of the subgoals of Global Goal 13 is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. As people around the world join together to help promote climate change, technology is doing its part too. It is providing tools to people before, during, and after disasters so the impact of climate-related incidents can either be minimized or avoided.
Here are a few examples of this in action.
As mentioned earlier, flooding is a major global problem and one that the city of Buenos Aires is all too familiar with. The city is plagued by torrential seasonal rains, which cause flash floods that take lives and damage property. In fact, in 2013, there were nearly 100 deaths from flooding, and the overall economic cost of the disaster was more than US$100 million. Devastated from this disaster, the government took proactive action and installed sensors throughout the city that collect and analyze weather data, providing real-time reports on areas needing immediate support. This move was met with success in 2014, as the city was flood free, leaving its residents safe.
For Fire & Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) in Australia, technology is helping it predict fires and other natural disasters before they happen with accurate early-warning systems. As the area’s population continues to grow, the number and severity of natural and manmade disasters is expected to increase the need for disaster services. To better prepare for this, FRNSW has taken the lead in consolidating the key data among related agencies involved in protecting people and property.
FRSNW hopes to maximize responsiveness to emergencies by simplifying how the agencies can share resources according to the unique needs of each situation. Recently, dozens of bush fires scorched thousands of acres in New South Wales and blanketed Sydney in thick smoke and ash for days. The connected agencies helped minimize property damage and personal injuries with data that was collected, analyzed, and presented to incident controllers working to contain wild, wind-driven fires.
Even better than predicting disasters caused by climate change is preventing them, and technology – including Big Data and analytics – can play a role here too. The United Nations (UN) plans to open the floodgates of Big Data to monitor and combat climate change by understanding energy consumption. Data for Climate Action is a UN-led initiative to collect and analyze data from private-sector organizations that can give researchers insights into how humans consume energy and ways to positively change behavior.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international organization under the auspices of the UN, also relies on data to help prevent climate-related disasters. The organization reviews and assesses scientific, technical, and economic data on changes in climate and their impact from thousands of scientists all over the world.
Research organizations such as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are one of the many sources for IPCC data. BAS collects massive amounts of data that provides critical insights for research on the world’s climate and environment. According to its Web site, the polar environment and ecology provides a sensitive indicator of global change; it also notes that Antarctic sediments and ice cores tell about the history of past climate, which can help predict the climate of the future.
A current research strategy, Polar Science for Planet Earth, is using the collection and analysis of Big Data in hopes to shed light on issues such as global warming. Part of the project includes sensors and probes that collect 10 GB of data an hour – 10 times the amount gathered 10 years ago. The data is sent to a high-performance computing center and into models used by scientists around the world.
While information and communication technology (ICT) is helping to detect, prevent, and alleviate the impact of natural disasters, it’s also something that consumes large amounts of energy, which in turn affects climate change.
However, IT can have a significant impact on mitigating the risk of climate change. A study from the Global e-Sustainability Initiative demonstrated that ICT solutions, such as video conferencing and smart building management, could cut the projected 2030 global greenhouse gas emissions by 19%. This would amount to energy and fuel savings comparable to 25 billion barrels of oil and a reduction of 12.1-gigaton carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) of greenhouse gases. This is equivalent to nearly 10 times the ICT sector’s emissions in the same period.
At SAP, our vision and purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Our technology is helping organizations such as the government of Buenos Aires and FRNSW improve the lives of the people they serve. Another example is Meteo Protect, which provides companies around the globe with customized insurance solutions to help offset the punitive financial impact of climate change. It is part of the SAP Startup Focus program and uses the SAP HANA platform to monitor weather, analyze its historical patterns, and address its risks. For example, the company helps wind energy utilities cover the risk of low average wind speed. It also protects food-processing companies that buy commodities to prepare against the negative impact of weather on the growing of food.
In addition, we also work with our customers to help them increase their overall resource productivity and transform their businesses to reduce carbon outputs.
Within SAP, sustainable practices are embedded in everything we do – from running our data centers to reporting our results to stakeholders. For example, one goal in our holistic sustainability strategy is to become carbon neutral by 2025. That requires SAP to run all its operations on 100% renewable energy and compensate for all other emissions within the material scope of its operations through investments such as those in the Livelihoods Carbon Fund.
This – together with a variety of carbon-reducing measures – helped our company decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 55,000 tons in 2017. But even more important: At 325 kilotons, the company’s carbon footprint is once again below year-2000 levels – despite growing four-fold in the interim. Back in 2009, SAP had set the goal of reducing its global greenhouse gas emissions to the year-2000 level by 2020. This target was met at the end of 2017. A closer look at the per capita values reveals what that reduction means: In 2000, SAP recorded 13.9 tons CO2 emissions per employee. Today it’s only around 3.8 tons, a significant decoupling of emissions from company growth. Over the past three years, our energy efficiency measures have generated a cumulative cost avoidance of €206 million.