Climate crisis demands new ways to measure impact, says Billy MacInnes
The Irish like to see the sun. Here in Donegal we appreciate it even more because we see it even less. A beautiful sunny day lifts our spirits, fills us all with happiness and optimism. Our horizons stretch farther on clear days when you can see, if not quite forever, at least a good distance beyond the more usual view on a dull, cloudy, rainy day.
It helps that sunny days aren’t so commonplace that they lose the glow that makes them so important in our lives and memories.
The feeling of optimism on a beautiful day is something we love to extrapolate into the future, in a time of sunny highlands, sparkling new days of promise and possibility. This is the sentiment we need to tap into as we look to the transition to a green economy over the next few years.
Right now, climate change is rightly framed in near-apocalyptic terms designed to force us to recognize the scale and gravity of the challenge we face in trying to protect the planet from the consequences of our actions.
But there is a danger that this narrative will leave us stunned to paralysis by the enormity of the challenge we must overcome. What can we do? What does it matter? This sense of helplessness is something we need to get rid of if we are to take the strong and concrete action needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change. We must look above the enveloping darkness to a hopefully clear horizon beyond.
In this context, it is encouraging to see that people are taking an optimistic view of the impact of the green transition on their lives, according to the European Investment Bank (EIB) Climate Survey. While some feel that the “sacrifices” needed to achieve a greener world will lead to a more austere and spartan existence for all of us, the majority of those polled took a more positive attitude.
According to the survey, 56% of Europeans believe that climate policies are a source of economic growth and that policies to combat climate change will create more jobs than they eliminate. Equally significantly, 61% believe that climate policies will improve their quality of life. This despite the fact that 62% believe that their purchasing power will decrease with the green transition.
The optimism expressed comes despite the fact that the majority of EU citizens (58%) believe their country will fail to drastically reduce its carbon emissions. Tellingly, 75% believe they are more concerned about the climate emergency than their governments and just over half (51%) say government inactivity is making the climate crisis harder to solve. This creates a vacuum as a large majority (70%) supports the use of tough government measures to tackle climate change by imposing behavioral changes.
Technology occupies a space somewhere between the old order and the new, greener order that will hopefully replace it. Computing contributes to rising carbon emissions and rising levels of e-waste. For example, device proliferation and the rapid obsolescence of most IT equipment is a factor, fueled by near-constant pressure to upgrade hardware and software and adopt new technologies. Another is the resources and energy expended by the ever-increasing number of data centers.
In fact, it could be argued that the technology was in danger of becoming a poster boy for the bad habits of the pre-climate change world. But there’s no reason it shouldn’t be at the forefront of the green transition.
On that note, there were some interesting things in Microsoft 2021 Environmental Sustainability Report which provided some perspective on issues related to carbon emissions. First, it was admitted that no one really knows what net zero means. From the report: “Progress depends on our ability to count carbon consistently… The world lacks a common meaning of the term net zero and a common unit of measurement to assess the climate impact of different net zero approaches , and we all need to focus on maturing the markets needed to achieve a net zero carbon economy by 2050.”
Microsoft revealed that Scope 1 and 2 emissions fell by around 17% in 2021, but Scope 3 emissions, which include “the entire value chain” of the company and accounted for 97% of its emissions, had increased by almost a quarter (23%). You don’t need to be a mathematician to realize that such a trend makes global emissions reductions nearly impossible. As Microsoft admitted, “Scope 3 emissions are the hardest to control and reduce.”
In case you were wondering, the channel has a lot of work to do with Scope 3. Westcoast chief executive Alex Tatham made a remark on the subject of Scope 3 emissions in an interview with CRN UK shortly. around the same time as Microsoft. report has been published. He argued that the impact of a distributor, such as Westcoast, on a product’s overall carbon emissions was “minimal”.
Tatham suggested there should be a ‘carbon account’ label per SKU giving information on how much carbon a product had absorbed and its environmental impact, arguing that this would ‘help the whole channel’.
He described scope 3 shows as “the hardest for the channel to handle”. Ironically, while the channel is often keen to be seen as adding as much value as possible to a vendor’s products and services, this is an area where partners will want their contribution to the value chain to be as low as possible.
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