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Technology and climate change are seemingly inseparable terms. Still, it’s easy to have a sense of dread and despair. After all, it’s near impossible to go a day without reading headlines about the mounting climate crisis.
With a looming climate deadline of 2030 to curb emissions before the Earth reaches the point of no return, it’s increasingly difficult to ignore the implications of not taking action.
According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion – such as continued sea level rise – are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.”
While many governments have lagged when it comes to taking action, entrepreneurs are taking matters into their own hands. Tech startups around the world are finding innovative and sustainable solutions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And in turn, they’re giving us hope that technology and climate change and will remain inseparable terms, and hopefully meet the 2030 deadline.
The list of tech startups tackling climate change is, fortunately, long and impressive. Here’s a look at a few that have recently caught our attention.
Did you know that an organization’s supply chain can account for more than 90% of its GHG emissions? Founded in 2019, CarbonChain is a London-based startup that wants to make it easier for companies to track and monitor the carbon footprint of their supply chain, combining technology and climate change action.
This will hopefully encourage more companies to transition to the net-zero economy. The company’s AI-powered platform automates the tracking of supply chain emissions for companies in the highest-polluting sectors – metals and mining, oil and gas, and agriculture, which are responsible for 50% of the world’s GHG emissions.
It may seem like a new concept, but carbon capture technology has been around for decades. And while it sounds promising, the process is divisive given its high energy consumption. That’s where Verdox is different. Verdox, founded in late 2019 by professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is making scalable, cost-effective carbon capture and removal a reality to, once again, combine technology and climate change solutions.
The startup’s technology uses only electricity and can remove carbon dioxide directly from the air and emission sources, with 70% energy savings compared to conventional approaches. Traditional carbon capture systems use large amounts of energy, making them difficult to scale. Since Verdox’s method uses only electricity, it doesn’t require heat or water, creating a more efficient approach for capturing CO2.
Since the launch of Bitcoin, blockchain technology has proven to be useful for transactions of all kinds. With a blockchain, almost every asset class can be tokenized and traded – artwork, sports teams, real estate, and even energy. WePower is a Lithuania-based startup that uses blockchain for its green energy financing and trading platform. It aims to help renewable energy producers raise capital by issuing their own energy tokens.
By tokenizing renewable energy and putting it onto a blockchain, the company says it is making that power tradeable and accessible to anyone. WePower’s premise enables buyers to purchase green energy directly from producers at competitive rates using Ethereum-based smart energy contract tokens, allowing technology and climate change to come together once again.
4. Prometheus Fuels
This Silicon Valley startup makes some bold claims – but then so did Steve Jobs. Prometheus’ goal is to replace all jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline with carbon-neutral fuels made from CO2 in the air. What’s more, the company claims that its fuels will cost the same or less than fossil fuels.
The Y Combinator-backed startup, founded in 2019, says that replacing fossil fuels with zero net carbon fuels could lower CO2 emissions by more than 20 gigatons per year. After closing its Series B funding round last year, the company achieved a $1.5 billion valuation, making it the “world’s first electrofuels unicorn.”
5. BrainBox AI
It’s estimated that buildings account for 40% of global energy consumption and 33% of GHG emissions. So clearly, improving the efficiency of buildings by combining technology with climate change concerns is essential in the fight. One startup that’s contributing in that regard is Montreal-based startup BrainBox AI. According to its website, BrainBox AI’s technology uses deep learning, cloud computing, and custom algorithms to optimize a building’s energy consumption.
The company says its technology can decrease a building’s carbon footprint by up to 40% while reducing HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) energy costs by as much as 25% and extending the life of HVAC equipment by up to 50%. Since its launch in 2019, more than 100 million square feet of commercial building space in 70 cities worldwide have benefited from BrainBox AI’s technology.
With so many companies committing to achieving net-zero emissions in the next decade, the carbon offset market has expanded exponentially in recent years. In fact, the carbon offset industry could be worth $100 billion by the end of the decade. But the industry has had issues, primarily around the transparency of carbon offsets.
Startup Pachama has already made a name for itself in the carbon offset market by using satellite images and AI to estimate forest carbon capture and monitor forest changes worldwide.
The company has even built a model to track annual trends in the Amazon rainforest. Pachama’s transparency about reforestation and conservation projects has helped bring validation and clarity to carbon offsetting, which has led to partnerships with big names like Shopify, Microsoft, and SoftBank in their commitments to technology and climate change solutions.
After water, concrete is the most widely used substance in the world, and it has a carbon footprint to back up that claim. That’s because cement, the main ingredient in concrete, is responsible for at least 8% of global CO2 emissions. But CarbiCrete, a Montreal-based startup, is helping offer alternative building solutions that contribute to reducing GHG emissions. The company’s technology enables the production of cement-free, carbon-negative concrete.
The process uses an industrial by-product (slag from steel products) to replace cement as a binding ingredient in precast concrete products. CO2 is then injected into the wet concrete to give it strength. Because CarbiCrete’s process captures and “permanently sequesters” CO2 in the concrete, the products are carbon-negative. Plus, CarbiCrete says its products also have a higher compression strength and better freeze/thaw resistance.
8. Strella Biotechnology
Technology and climate change doesn’t only need to consider carbon capture, though.
Consider this: The annual carbon footprint of food waste in the U.S. is the equivalent of emissions from 33 million passenger vehicles.
According to the 2021 Food Waste Index report from the United Nations Environment Program, approximately 8-10% of GHG emissions come from the 931 million tons of food wasted each year. Strella Biotechnology is working to address food waste in the agricultural supply chain due to spoilage.
The Philadelphia-based startup uses a biosensing platform fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT) that predicts fruit ripeness, leading to less food waste and better quality products. The startup measures gas outputs of produce as it begins to ripen, and “emissions provide earlier and more accurate means of predicting quality than vision or environmental measurements,” according to its website.
Technology and Climate Change: Risk for Businesses
The ingenuity and passion of tech startups taking action against climate change provide a much-needed beacon of optimism for our planet’s future.
However, while many startups are helping to lead the charge in the fight against climate change, there are also mounting risks for businesses regarding increasing environmental uncertainty due to climate change. That includes those organizations working to curb the climate crisis.
Climate change brings many risks for businesses, such as rising costs of materials and disrupted supply chains. Not to mention that extreme weather events like fires, hurricanes, droughts, and floods directly impact 70% of all economic sectors worldwide.
What’s more, climate change threatens worker safety due to factors such as extreme temperatures and air quality. In fact, heat stress from global warming is projected to cause productivity losses equal to 80 million full-time jobs globally by 2030.
While it won’t solve the climate crisis, having insurance for your business to address future potential issues can help ease some burden and concern in the face of uncertainty.
But, as we said, tech startups worldwide are giving reason to look ahead with the hope that we can still curb the climate crisis by combining their technology with climate change initiatives.
As Michele Parmelee, Deputy CEO and Chief People and Purpose Officer of Deloitte Global, wrote in a recent report:
“There has emerged a newfound sense of determination that if we act now, we can alter the course of climate change and avoid worst-case scenarios down the line.”