Sir David Attenborough’s latest documentary, Climate Change: The Facts was, as expected, both excellent and terrifying. It’s available on iPlayer but you’ll need a VPN (that the BBC haven’t blocked) to watch it if you’re outside the UK (or you could try YouTube). The show has an important message so please share.
Along similar lines is this funny music video that’s worth a watch. Comedy can be a better motivator than fear and it’s good to have as many approaches as possible.
For those who want to dig deeper into the data there is plenty available from reputable official sources. NOAA’s Assessing the Global Climate in March 2019 is a good start and this interactive sea ice graph is also informative. There is a big list of solutions that you should take a look at too.
Greening the Grid
If you work in tech then your job ultimately involves pushing electrons around. However, not all electrons are equal.
When and where you use electricity has a big effect on the type of generation and the amount of carbon emitted. If you’re British then there is a fantastic API that tells you the carbon intensity at a regional level including a forecast for the next couple of days.
You could use this API to build lots of interesting apps, devices, widgets or badges. For example, how about using it to only open the Slack desktop app during low carbon periods. This may be a bit tongue-in-cheek but Slack is a resource hog that also currently crashes on exit and pegs a CPU core at 100%. Electron is an apt name for the framework, as it uses lots of them.
This is a good example of how engineers can have a large effect at scale. If we can make our products more efficient, higher performance and less buggy then we can save precious resources all over the planet.
Slack also uses energy on the server side by hosting on AWS. Unfortunately, Amazon still hasn’t transitioned all their data centres to green energy and lots of coal is still burned in the Eastern US. The recent Amazon workers action is a positive move and employees at more tech firms need to organise to force changes by those higher up.
Cloudflare is leading the way by improving efficiency and carbon offsetting the electricity for all their offices and data centres, which is encouraging. There are also companies as of today that have signed up to all three Climate Group initiatives (on EVs, renewable energy and efficiency).
If you work in tech then get involved with CAT at ClimateAction.tech. You can also vote with your (employer’s) wallet by choosing what services to use and which initiatives to join.
We need to be responsible for the power that big tech has and use it to solve the big problems for everyone. We can’t be passive or neutral and let selfish parties subvert these tools for personal gain at tremendous global cost.
This isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes business sense from an economic perspective. Climate action must be a priority for any corporation and shareholders must demand it.
If your service has users all over the world, including in (but not limited to) developing countries then your bottom line will suffer along with the people. Will anyone want to use your app when they are more worried about flooding or how they are going to eat?
The Only Winning Move is to Take Action
It’s a simple question of which side of history do you want to be on? The choice is easy because there is only one reasonable outcome.
- If you take action and we succeed in averting climate breakdown then you are on the winning side of history.
- If you don’t take action but we somehow succeed anyway then you are on the losing side and will be derided.
- If you don’t take action and we fail then there won’t be any history to be on a side of. Everybody loses.
Perhaps the following matrix illustrates this more clearly.
Speaking of history, if your audience is more conservative then you may wish to frame your argument in terms of the past. Using nostalgia is a useful psychological technique for convincing those who are scared of the future and change.
Wouldn’t it be great to go back to the good ol’ days when we hadn’t ruined the planet? Things were so much better back then! For more you can read the full research paper: Past-focused environmental comparisons promote proenvironmental outcomes for conservatives.