Ecology and Climate

    Ecosystems and climate change are the subjects of a paper by Malhi et al. (2020) which forms part of a Royal Society publication on the “threats, opportunities and solutions” pertaining to this area. The authors explore “how ecosystems respond to climate change”, how their resilience can be enhanced and how they can “assist in addressing the challenge of a changing climate.” A number of papers on the interaction between climate change and the biosphere are introduced, five of which are outlined below. Turner et al. (2020) are concerned with abrupt changes in ecological systems and the research agenda needed for diagnosing them. As examples of such changes they list coral bleaching, changes to kelp forests, ice loss, soaring tree mortality, plummeting forest carbon uptake, and more frequent and severe fires. Such changes have profound consequences for ecosystems and human wellbeing and it is important to understand them. Changes to ecosystems can be driven by many factors ot

Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change

  A brief article by Marr (2021) lists a number of areas in which artificial intelligence (AI) is of actual or potential use in mitigating climate change. His topics include improving energy efficiency, optimizing clean energy development, avoiding waste, making transport more efficient, providing tools to help understand carbon footprints, monitoring the environment and creating new low-carbon materials. Marr draws on a report from Capgemini (2020) which claims that within their study the most effective “AI-enabled use cases have helped organizations reduce GHG emissions by 13% and improve power efficiency by 11% in the last two years” and “have also helped reduce waste and deadweight assets by improving their utilization by 12%.” Capgemini estimates that applications of AI “have the potential to help organizations fulfil 11–45% of the ‘Economic Emission Intensity’ targets of the Paris Agreement, depending on the scale of AI adoption across sectors” by 2030. However although many or

A metric of mortality

    A measure of the mortality cost of carbon (MCC) has been proposed by Bressler (2021), who describes it as a metric for “calculating the marginal mortality effects of emissions.” The metric “represents the number of excess deaths over some time period from one ton of additional carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions.” Its value depends on the time period chosen for the calculation, and upon predicted changes in global average temperatures, which are themselves dependent on global emissions. The metric makes it possible to calculate, for example, the number additional of tons of carbon dioxide emitted in 2020 which would result in one excess death in the years 2020 to 2100. Such information, along with other measures, “can be useful in informing the decision-making of individuals” and organisations “in determining the social impact of the emissions generated by their activities” as well as guiding policy at higher levels. An insight at the individual level can be provided by estim

Artificial Intelligence and Sustainability

  AI has been described as potentially important in helping to meet some of the objectives listed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (SDGs, 2015). Palomares et al. (2021) set out to describe progress and prospects in artificial intelligence technologies with regard to the SDGs. Six categories are chosen for their analysis: life, economic and technological development, social development, equality, resources and natural environment. They aim to identify the opportunities and challenges for AI in helping to fulfil the SDGs, and to provide a roadmap for maximising this assistance in the next decade; they also highlight the difficulties and potential threats associated with AI. The writers note the hostility often felt towards AI, and attempt to present its potential benefits with regard to the SDGs. They offer a definition of AI, note its main elements, and list its main areas, such as knowledge representation, natural language processing, computer

Energy maps and calculators

  The production and use of different forms of energy have been mapped geographically for a variety of reasons, and some examples will be outlined briefly before describing a recent place-based energy calculator for the UK. Scales of mapping vary in the examples from the global through region, country, city and parish down to city block. Both energy production and use have been mapped by type, such as coal, gas and oil, wind and solar renewables, by the associated emissions, and by energy flows between geographical regions. The purpose and the intended audience vary from case to case. The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy is a resource coordinated by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) which “allows its users to find maps of renewable energy resources for locations across the world.” (Global Atlas for Renewable Energy, 2021). The Global Solar Atlas provides information on irradiation levels on land worldwide within a suitable range of latitudes, and calculates the o

Pensions and climate

  The cost of meeting the UK’s net zero greenhouse gas target has been estimated by the Climate Change Committee “on conservative assumptions” at “up to 1-2% of GDP” in the years to 2050, when the annual cost would reach about £50 billion (CCC, 2020). The gross domestic product of the UK has been estimated for 2020 as “1.96 trillion British pounds, a fall of approximately 216 billion pounds compared to 2019” (Statista, 2021).  Fiona Harvey wrote in The Guardian that the “UK pensions sector accounts for about £2.6tn in funds” and noted the potential influence of these funds on investment and business should they invest in “lower-carbon portfolios” (Harvey, 2021). In view of the size of pension funds, it is not surprising that some pressure groups have sought to influence the ways in which they are invested. One such group is Make My Money Matter which describes itself as “a people-powered campaign fighting for a world where we all know where our pension money goes, and where we can