7 Septempter 2021

The climate conversation no one’s having

Optimism is mixed with reservation ahead of COP26, as the annual opportunity to get serious about the climate crisis once again lacks any mention of digital sustainability.

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By Bridget Tiller
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As we look ahead to COP26, the landmark climate conference happening in Glasgow this November, a new scientific report on the state of climate change is throwing light on just how urgent our situation is becoming. But how does digital carbon fit into all of this?

If you’ve turned on the news recently, you might well have heard something about climate change. A new landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been making headlines, and we wanted to figure out what it’s saying, and what it means for digital carbon’s place in the upcoming international climate conference.

The IPCC produces these reports about every seven years — they’re called Assessment Reports and this one is number six (or AR6, for short). They provide a synthesis of scientific understanding of climate change and carry a lot of weight in policy circles. The actual report is about 4000 pages long — there’s a lot to say! — but the IPCC have provided handy summary documents for policymakers, as well as a set of headline statements.

The gist is this: AR6 provides us with the clearest consensus yet on climate change — it’s happening, and the cause is human activity. Some major headlines include:

  • Average global temperatures are up by more than 1°C since preindustrial times
  • Extreme weather patterns are increasing, from droughts to floods and everything in between
  • Sea level rise is accelerating
  • And, crucially, humans are causing these changes, and need to act almost immediately to divert the worst effects

This discussion that can often seem abstract has been thrown into sharp reality by news of increasing extreme weather patterns, including observations of a record high European temperature, and wildfires that are sweeping Greece and other Mediterranean countries.

It’s undeniable — as the report highlights, our climate is already changing.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it? Well, the situation is very serious — but it’s not all doom and gloom.

There is a golden thread of hope that runs through the report — hope that the current trajectory can be altered. Hope that we can remain within what some scientists are calling the ‘safe operating space for humanity’.

But if we want to turn it around, we need radical action, and fast. It’s estimated that in order to prevent the worst effects of climate change from coming to pass, we need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by at least half by 2030 at the latest, and perhaps even before. This is a challenge, of course, but it’s one that is doable if we pay attention to where our emissions are coming from and how we can reduce them.

This is where digital carbon comes in.

Every time you visit a website, for example, a little bit of CO2 is released, and that adds up. Current estimates say that the internet produces around 3.7% of the world’s CO2 emissions.

So far, only one of three sections of the report has been released. This first part is all about the physical science basis (think speed of glacial melt and release of soil carbon, for example), so it’s not very surprising that digital carbon isn’t mentioned. What this report does form, though, is a crystal clear and urgent call to action — action which we at Greenpixie believe should have digital carbon as a central theme.

There are loads of upcoming opportunities for digital carbon to become part of the conversation.

At Greenpixie we are especially excited for COP26, which is happening in Glasgow in November. COP stands for the ‘Conference of Parties’, and it’s a big gathering of world leaders who will discuss how their current commitments to act on global warming are going, and (hopefully) make some more drastic ones.

This is a golden opportunity for world leaders to start talking about digital carbon as part of a radical plan to save the planet. And one that we really should be taking!

If you’re interested in taking digital carbon seriously ahead of COP26, take a look at our carbon calculator which estimates your website’s CO2 emissions, and get in touch with us at Greenpixie to learn how you can make your website low-carbon without changing the look or feel at all.

Here’s hoping digital carbon is not left off the COP26 agenda this year.