Forging a more sustainable tomorrow requires not only practical measures today, but also new ways of thinking and altered expectations.
Technology’s role in the climate crisis
Technologies and their applications can have both practical as well as policy-based implications.
Using artificial intelligence to develop a framework for better policy research in the Global South, a paper co-authored by Dr Kamiar Mohaddes shows that while technology can be a force to achieve climate change mitigation and sustainability goals, its welfare effects may be restricted if the wants of society are not reflected in policy.
The framework provides a higher degree of freedom to zoom-in, zoom-out and zoom-through the problem, ensuring that possibilities and assumptions that are forgotten or taken for granted can be better recognized.
The research focused on government-sponsored housing developed in Mumbai to house people living in slum dwellings as part of the Indian government’s poverty alleviation efforts. However, many people living in such slum rehabilitation housing had since been pushed into energy poverty due to rising electricity bills.
Artificial intelligence is also being used to help companies, and whole industries, reduce their climate impact. Supported by the Accelerate Cambridge programme, an aviation analytics and visualisation company is using AI to try and reduce the aviation industry’s climate impact by 60%.
Cambridge-based Satavia, whose aim is eliminate 2% of human climate impact through smarter, greener aviation, developed a system to enable aircraft operators to prevent climate forcing caused by contrails, the condensation trails formed from aircraft exhaust.
The public’s perception and acceptance of climate-based technologies such as these is critical to the success of their implementation. A study co-authored by Dr David Reiner investigated the impact that social media has on the uptake of particular climate-related tech.
Based on 30,000 Facebook posts, the study found that social justice and health issues have impacted the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs). After exploring the public attitudes expressed in the posts, containing 600,000 key words and terms, the study concluded that EV uptake can be boosted by highlighting the positive health and social justice effects of EV ownership.
Entrepreneurial solutions to environmental problems
It is not enough though to rely on technology alone to help solve the climate-crisis. A significant element of humanity’s needs will be driven by the experimentation and determination of thousands of net-zero minded entrepreneurs.
Highlighting an increasing enthusiasm for investment in such entrepreneurial innovation, Dr Chris Coleridge says history shows us that some key forms of innovation, such as disruption and cross-sector collaborations, are more likely to originate with entrepreneurs than with corporate entities.
The venture capital world is also beginning to wake up to the fact that the investment opportunity posed by climate change is “more like a world war”, than previous opportunities such as the internet. Coleridge reasons that society’s awareness of the threat of the climate crisis poses a prolonged and intense engagement of the private sector’s capital and its capacity for innovation.
A challenge as vast as the climate crisis not only requires net-zero minded entrepreneurs, but also new ways of thinking to systemically challenge our existing assumptions. If we wish to avoid making only small, incremental improvements, new practices and fresh entrepreneurial thinking should push the boundaries of what is conceivable.
Professor of Organisational Theory & Information Systems Dr Matthew Grimes highlights the need for less conventional approaches that will really ‘push the envelope’. He identifies the fact that ideas considered initially as ‘loonshots’, or ideas widely dismissed as being loony, may eventually hold the key to solving some of the world’s most intractable problems.
Working together to tackle climate change
The business world, and business-related research, does not stand in insolation when investigating the causes and solutions to the climate-crisis. Faculty and experts from the Cambridge Judge community have been working in collaboration with colleagues across the University of Cambridge as part of the Cambridge Zero initiative.
Director of Cambridge Zero, Emily Shuckburgh further highlighted the need for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in conversation with Professor Sir David King, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the University’s Centre for Climate Repair.
During the conversation, part of our Enterprise Tuesday series, Sir David discussed how civilisation can, in the midst of the climate-change crisis, win back chances of survival.