17 weeks to Davos. 17 global goals to achieve a sustainable future. 17 blog posts exploring the UN’s vision for humankind.
Global Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact.
Consider this: In 2014, 87% of the worldwide disasters were climate-related, according to the 2015 World Disasters Report from International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The report says this is a trend that has been escalating over the last 20 years, noting that “climate change will lead to an increase in frequency and severity of future disasters.”
The economic cost of these disasters was $99.2 billion in 2014, with over 107 million people affected. China is one of the most disaster-affected countries in the world, with drought, storms, and floods disrupting more than 58 million people. Worldwide, floods and landslides accounted for nearly half of all natural disasters in 2014, and were responsible for 63% of the disaster-affected deaths. Floods in India, Pakistan, and the Balkans were some of the most severe. Drought is also a major concern, as it affected 39% of all people last year. In fact, the report calls drought a “silent disaster” that severely affects the economic well-being of millions of people, especially in the Sahel region of Africa.
Disasters in 2015 will likely be as impactful, with worldwide events such as earthquakes in Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Hurricane Patricia, and devastating droughts in Brazil, Korea, and the United States.
Technology: minimizing the impact of disasters
One of the subgoals of Global Goal 13 is to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries. As people around the world join together to help promote climate change, technology is doing its part too. It is providing tools to people before, during, and after disasters so that the impact of climate-related incidents can either be minimized or avoided.
Here are a few examples of this in action.
As mentioned earlier, flooding is a major global problem and one that the city of Buenos Aires is all too familiar with. The city is plagued by torrential seasonal rains, which cause flash floods that take lives and damage property. In fact, in 2013, there were nearly 100 deaths from flooding and the overall economic cost of the disaster was over $100 million. Devastated from this disaster, the government took proactive action and installed sensors throughout the city that collect and analyze weather data, providing real-time reports on areas needing immediate support. This move was met with success in 2014, as the city was flood free, leaving its residents safe.
For the Fire & Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) in Australia, technology is helping them predict fires and other natural disasters before they happen with accurate early warning systems. As the area’s population continues to grow, the number and severity of natural and manmade disasters is expected to increase the need for disaster services. To better prepare for this, the FRNSW has taken the lead in consolidating the key data among related agencies involved in protecting people and property.
The agency hopes to maximize responsiveness to emergencies by simplifying how the agencies can share resources according to the unique needs of each situation. Recently, dozens of bush fires scorched thousands of acres in New South Wales and blanketed Sydney in thick smoke and ash for days. The connected agencies helped minimize property damage and personal injuries with data that was collected, analyzed, and presented to incident controllers working to contain wild, wind-driven fires.
Big Data: helping to prevent disasters
Even better than predicting disasters caused by climate change is preventing them and technology – including Big Data and analytics – can play a role here too. The United Nations (UN) plans to open the floodgates of Big Data to monitor and combat climate change by understanding energy consumption. Data for Climate Action is an UN-led initiative to collect and analyze data from private sector organizations that can give researchers insights into how humans consume energy and ways to positively change behavior.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international organization under the auspices of the United Nations (UN), also relies on data to help prevent climate-related disasters. The organization reviews and assesses scientific, technical, and economic data on changes in climate and their impact from thousands of scientists from all over the world.
Research organizations such as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are one of the many sources for IPCC data. BAS collects massive amounts of data that provides critical insights for research on the world’s climate and environment. According to its website, the polar environment and ecology provides a sensitive indicator of global change; it also notes that Antarctic sediments and ice cores tell about the history of past climate, which can help predict the climate of the future.
A current research strategy, Polar Science for Planet Earth, is using the collection and analysis of Big Data in hopes to shed light on issues such as global warming. Part of the project includes sensors and probes that collect 10GB of data an hour, 10 times the amount gathered 10 years ago. The data is sent to a high-performance computing center and into models used by scientists around the world.
Technology innovation is helping too
While information and communication technology (ICT) is helping to detect, prevent, and alleviate the impact of natural disasters, it’s also something that consumes large amounts of energy, which in turn affects climate changes.
However, IT can have a significant impact on mitigating risk of climate change. A recent study from the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) demonstrated that ICT solutions such as video conferencing and smart building management could cut the projected 2030 global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 19%. This would amount to energy and fuel savings comparable to 25 billion barrels of oil and a reduction of 12.1 Gigatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) of greenhouse gases. This is equivalent to nearly ten times the ICT sector’s emissions in the same period.
And SAP is too…
At SAP, our vision and purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Our technology is helping organizations like the government of Buenos Aires and the FRNSW improve the lives of the people they serve. In addition, we also work with our customers to help them increase their overall resource productivity and transform their businesses to reduce carbon outputs.
Within SAP, sustainable practices are embedded in everything we do – from running our data centers to reporting our results to stakeholders. For example, one goal in our holistic sustainability strategy is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from our operations back to the levels of the year 2000 by 2020. In 2014, we shifted to 100% renewable energy in all of our data centers and facilities to support a more sustainable energy market.
This – together with a variety of carbon reducing measures – helped our company decrease greenhouse gas emissions from 32.4 grams CO2 per euro of total revenue in 2013 to 28.4 grams CO2 per euro in 2014. Our carbon emissions per employee also decreased by about 12% in 2014. And since 2008, our energy efficiency measures have generated a cumulative cost avoidance of €310 million, with €45 million of that amount created in 2014.
This blog is part of our 17 Weeks to Davos series. To learn more about the UN Global Goals and how you can help make the world a better place, view this interactive Web experience from SAP: 17 Global Goals to Achieve a Sustainable Future.