The Royal Society is running a project to study how digital technologies can best protect our planet’s environment and ultimately help achieve help achieve net zero carbon emissions.

The ambitious question it is asking is: How can digital technologies be harnessed to tackle climate change?

The Society is seeking to identify actions the UK can take to play a leading role in “data-enabled innovation” and the adoption of digital technologies – from AI through to new forms of computer hardware – to tackle climate change.

Andy Hopper FRS, Treasurer and Vice-President of the Royal Society and Professor of Computer Technology at Cambridge University, as well as being Chair of the project, writes:

Recent Royal Society policy studies have noted the potential for powerful digital technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), to be applied to address major societal challenges. These studies identified the conditions needed to support the safe and rapid deployment of the technology; the forms of governance of data use needed to create an environment of careful stewardship; and the role that technology can play in helping address governance challenges. Building on this work, over 2020 the Society will investigate how data and digital technologies can be applied to the challenge of reaching net zero.

The project on digital technologies and the planet, which started last year, will have three main thrusts.

  1. To investigate the ways in which digital technologies can be mobilised to tackle climate change, both in terms of the development of ‘greener’ digital systems and their application to reduce carbon emissions.
  2. To explore pathways for the development of trustworthy digital systems to support efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and the policies that can help advance their development and use.
  3. To create a vision for the future of digital technologies deployed in support of reducing carbon emissions.

The Society says:

“Digital technologies could support this transformation. These technologies have already reshaped many daily activities – from online retail to on-demand transport services – with individuals using data-enabled systems to bring physical activities into the digital realm, reducing carbon emissions in the process. As technologies develop and systems for data use evolve, there will be further opportunities to find new ways of carrying out everyday tasks, with digital technologies bolstering a low-carbon revolution.”

The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom’s national academy of sciences.

Author: Franck Fourniol (@FrancknScience) March 30, 2020