Use Your Data to Mitigate Climate Change
3 min read
A follow-up Discussion from the Data Science Festival Sandbox
The increasing availability of personal data can be used by everyone to benefit from the global shift towards environmentally sustainable business practices. From financial trading platforms to social media and search engines, the monetization of data collection has changed the choices people make in their daily life and how they interact with technology. Sharing a picture of your new shoes that you bought after you saw Kiley Jenner wearing them in an Instagram post or purchasing GME on Robinhood after spending at least 45 minutes laughing at meme’s are just two examples of real change made possible by the creative capture and use of personal data.
In addition to decision making and purchasing power, the availability of personal data has changed the way people interact with technology. Need to meditate more? Use the data generated by wearables like Muse or Headspace to help you. Want to set new fitness goals, FitBit, Strava or MyFitnessPal can help out. The success of these companies reflects the trust placed in data and the tech that makes sense of it all.
Understanding the role of individual action in relation to climate change is difficult. How can saying no to a plastic straw do anything to stop the rate at which crude oil is refined for plastic use? Why does it make sense to preserve freshwater in Germany when the California is going through a drought? It doesn’t and that straw won’t change the world. However, as large-scale businesses and institutions shift practices to offset the risk of climate change, these changes can be used for personal benefit.
In order to de-risk assets that can be damaged by climate change and meet growing demand for eco-conscious products and services a growing number of businesses and governments are committing to decarbonization pathways. As operations change, companies will need a coherent way to demonstrate sustainability commitments to consumers, investors and regulators. The shift will also create a need to manage newly created environmental impact data and convey it to all stakeholders.
The idea of using personal data in a transaction that takes place on social media or other free services is the same mechanism that can be used to create a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Understanding personal environmental impact can help guide decisions in the purchase of products and services from companies that invest in sustainability. This benefits eco-conscious consumers and companies that have made ESG commitments. Tracking impact also creates a clear incentive to invest in solutions that help mitigate climate change where personal behavior change is limited.
People who understand their impact can make informed decisions on whether or not to change behavior, or purchase offsets. For example, understanding emissions generated by flights required for business travel can be used to decide on flying with an airline that offers offsets on the purchase of a flight, buy voluntary offsets from a renewable energy project or invest in that project to capture profits from their growth. The trust placed in aggregators of health and fitness data presents a new opportunity to aggregate environmental impact data, produce more personalized reports and increase the accuracy of impact calculation.
Finally, in order to achieve the net-zero emissions goals and keep the international community in line with the 1.5-degree limit set out by the IPCC Paris Agreement, global emissions must drop to 50% by 2030 and another 50% by 2040. While top down solutions to climate change like investment into leapfrog cleantech and regulatory changes are absolutely necessary these decisions can only be carried out by those who understand their individual role in the climate crisis. The likelihood of systemic change will increase if individuals are better able to analyze their impact and connect it to a sense of personal well-being. This creates a full circle movement for the enabling an eco-conscious lifestyle through data aggregation and communication.