I won’t dwell on politics here, but 97% of scientists agree that global warming is real, and, according to the latest United National report this month, it is worse than ever (according to the NYTimes,
“The gathering risks of climate change are so profound that they could stall or even reverse generations of progress against poverty and hunger if greenhouse emissions continue at a runaway pace, according to a major new United Nations report.”). (my emphasis)
Thus, it should be noted that the chances of significant government action to curb global warming during the next two years have vanished now that Senator James Inhofe will chair the the Senate Environmental Committee (I won’t repeat any of the clap-trap he has said to deny global warming: look it up…).
While probably not enough to combat such a serious challenge, the Internet of Things will help fill the gap, by helping bring about an era of unprecedented precision in use of energy and materials.
Most important, the IoT is a critical component in “smart grid” electrical strategies, which are critical to reducing CO2 emissions.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, “Because a smart grid can adjust demand to match intermittent wind and solar supplies, it will enable the United States to rely far more heavily on clean, renewable, home-grown energy: cutting foreign oil imports, mitigating the environmental damage done by domestic oil drilling and coal mining, and reducing harmful air pollution. A smart grid will also facilitate the switch to clean electric vehicles, making it possible to “smart charge” them at night when wind power is abundant and cheap, cutting another huge source of damaging air pollution.”
And then there’s generating electricity from conventional resources: GE, as part of its “industrial internet” IoT strategy, says that it will be able to increase its gas turbines’ operating efficiency (which it says generate 25% of the world’s electricity) by at least 1%.
Equally important, as I’ve written before, “precision manufacturing” through the IoT will also reduce not only use of materials, but also energy consumption in manufacturing.
In other important areas, the IoT can also help reduce global warming:
- Agriculture: conventional farming is also a major contributor to global warming. “Climate-smart” agriculture, by contrast, reduces the inputs, including energy, needed while maximizing yield (Freight Farms, which converts old intermodal shipping containers into self-contained “Leafy Green Machine” urban farming systems, is a great example!).
- IoT-based schemes to cut traffic congestion. As The Motley Fool (BTW, they’re big IoT fans of the IoT as a smart investment opportunity) documents, “1.9 billion gallons of fuel is consumed every year from drivers sitting in traffic. That’s 186 million tons of unnecessary CO2 emissions each year just in the U.S. “
The Motley Fool concludes that, combined, a wide range of IoT initiatives can reduce carbon emissions significantly while increasing the economy’s efficiency:
“A recent report by the Carbon War Room estimates that the incorporation of machine-to-machine communication in the energy, transportation, built environment (its fancy term for buildings), and agriculture sectors could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 9.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent annually. That’s 18.2 trillion pounds, or equivalent to eliminating all of the United States’ and India’s total greenhouse gas emissions combined, and more than triple the reductions we can expect with an extremely ambitious alternative energy conversion program.
“Increased communication between everything — engines, appliances, generators, automobiles — allows for instant feedback for more efficient travel routes, optimized fertilizer and water consumption to reduce deforestation, real-time monitoring of electricity consumption and instant feedback to generators, and fully integrated heating, cooling, and lighting systems that can adjust for human occupancy.”
It always amuses me that self-styled political conservatives are frequently the ones who are least concerned with conserving resources. Perhaps the IoT, by making businesses more efficient, and therefore more profitable, may be able to bring political conservatives into the energy efficiency fold!