We should not wait on technology that is not yet fully developed to maybe save us in the future. Tech is already there for us; now we need to be there for it.
Solar Image unsplash - Tech Is Not Going to Save Us
(Source: Unsplash)

Climate Tech

We are experiencing more extreme weather events all over the planet. We might look to technological innovation to get us out of the climate corner we have industrialised ourselves into. Speculative technology such as carbon capture, electric aviation and geoengineering are dropped into the public conversation as things that will definitely solve all our problems in the not-too-distant future. Without us having to do anything now.
I think there is a very simple reason why tech isn’t going to save us: it already could. There are massive amounts of technological solutions out there. Renewable energy being the most obvious. We can literally pluck energy from the sky. There are certainly technical challenges in implementing a full flip from fossil to renewable energy, and it would indeed take a lot of effort. But it could have been done some time ago.
A switch to renewable would also make each country less reliant on big fossil fuel countries such as Russia or Saudi Arabia. The US energy secretary recently dubbed a global clean energy plan “the greatest peace plan of all.” Seems like wind parks and solar farms should be everywhere.

Policy Change

The reason that we are not all already living lives that use renewable energy solutions to slow down and stop our climate crisis is human. Public policy is not celebrating our technical prowess by implementing provided solutions as fast as we can develop them while outlawing the options that it can replace. Take the 70-year innovation journey of solar photovoltaics. The biggest contributors to this development have been the USA, Japan, Germany, Australia and Germany (in that order). The open sharing of ideas and resources across countries has led to the point where today in sunny locations solar is cheaper than running existing fossil fuel power plants. A great achievement but a more supportive international public policy could have sped this development up to at least half this time. We could have been fully running on solar and other renewables for decades now. But even today we are not.
Ongoing technological innovation is making renewable energy more efficient all the time, improving storage capacity and providing smarter connections to the network. Such innovation is absolutely necessary, but unless we change how we apply our very impressive technological solutions – through law and policy – nothing is going to change.
Neither will the developments in speculative tech suddenly change this. “Just think what humanity can do when climate change finally gets the political attention and funding it needs.” We have the technological power; now we need the human power.

About the Author

Priscilla Haring-Kuipers writes about technology from a social science perspective. She is especially interested in technology supporting the good in humanity and a firm believer in effect research. She has an MSc in Media Psychology and makes This Is Not Rocket Science happen. 

WEEF 2022

WEEF 2022

The World Ethical Electronics Forum (WEEF 2022), which is slated for November 2022, will build on the momentum from last year's event, where Elektor engineers and other thought leaders discussed ethics and sustainable development goals. Over the next few months, Elektor will be publishing thought-provoking, ethics-related articles, interviews, and polls. Visit the WEEF 2022 website for additional details.