Decarbonisation by Design, NOT Disaster

Date Published

20th Aug 2020

Suzanne Wallace
Media & Communications Manager, IES

This year, Earth Overshoot Day, the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year, falls on August 22nd. This is just over three weeks later than last year when it fell on 29th July. 

When you visit the Earth Overshoot Day official website, one of the first lines you see is:

“The Novel Coronavirus Pandemic Has Caused Humanity’s Ecological Footprint To Contract. However, True Sustainability That Allows All To Thrive On Earth Can Only Be Achieved By Design, Not Disaster.”

On reflection of the measures that were put in place and the dramatic changes that people were forced to make to their lives throughout worldwide lockdowns in order to contain the Coronavirus, three weeks doesn’t seem all that significant. In fact, it highlights the immense scale of the problem of Climate Change. If we are to #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day and meet decarbonisation targets set by governments around the world, then more purposeful and better integrated solutions at a much bigger scale are needed. And as the quote says tackle decarbonisation ‘by Design, Not Disaster’.

We have talked often about Climate Change and the need to take action. Anyone who is familiar with IES, or has watched our manifesto, will know we believe that we need to make our built environment as energy efficient as possible. It is one of the three fundamental observations on which IES is founded and a view we very much stand by to this day. 

In a recent article our CEO Don McLean talks about Climate Change as ‘The Slow Motion Pandemic’. Here he argues that:

“A major similarity between the coronavirus and climate change is that they are both airbourne - the coronavirus predominately being spread very quickly by human coughing and sneezing; while Climate Change is due to airbourne carbon emissions (CO2) and predominately spread very quickly by human use of fossil fuels.  

However, there is a major difference in the way we account for the impacts of coronavirus in comparison to Climate Change. The impact of coronavirus is easily tracked through testing and deaths. However, the effects of Climate Change are not as easily accountable, even though it is already killing hundreds of thousands of people each year.” 

In a recent article by Bill Gates, COVID-19 is awful. Climate change could be worse., he shares similar sentiments saying,

“I realize that it’s hard to think about a problem like climate change right now. When disaster strikes, it is human nature to worry only about meeting our most immediate needs, especially when the disaster is as bad as COVID-19. But the fact that dramatically higher temperatures seem far off in the future does not make them any less of a problem—and the only way to avoid the worst possible climate outcomes is to accelerate our efforts now. Even as the world works to stop the novel coronavirus and begin recovering from it, we also need to act now to avoid a climate disaster by building and deploying innovations that will let us eliminate our greenhouse gas emissions.”

For years, governments have been talking about 'what' needs to be done to decarbonise, it is time now that we look at HOW. 

Outdated methods such as spreadsheets and simplified mathematical approaches are simply not effective solutions for a challenge of this scale.  It is extremely difficult to make a coherent and effective decarbonisation plan, understanding the actual impact of the different solutions, how they act holistically, and, most importantly, to track and monitor the progress of the plan. 

Using our unique integration of digitised physics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, we can help you create a digital twin of any community/group of buildings to analyse all the various decarbonisation options, identify and weigh up the risks and potential savings - prior to implementation - and monitor progress towards net-zero targets over time.

Read more to find out ‘how’ you can implement your decarbonisation strategy now.

We now know that, when faced with a major and immediate threat, our governments can make funding available where it is needed. Undoubtedly, there are a number of paths they might take to address the decarbonisation issue, however we strongly believe we must urge governments to consider making the necessary investments in decarbonisation sooner rather than later.

There is an extremely strong argument for investing in decarbonisation as our economies begin to recover from the pandemic. Investing in new technologies such as the ICL Digital Twin will ensure that we decarbonise by design and not disaster.

“Only if our governments invest now do we have a chance of minimising the impact of climate change. We know from the coronavirus pandemic that delay will be much more costly than taking action.” 

Don McLean

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