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Big Data To Stop Global Warming

Can we use data to stop the largest global threat?

7Dec

Global warming is the biggest threat to the world at the moment. Terrorism, wars and financial meltdown may seem like the biggest single issues, but the reality is that these are all elements that can be recovered from, whereas global warming is the cause of irreversible damage.

Global leaders over the past decade have had countless discussions to try and find the best ways to reduce carbon emissions, although given the power of the many of the fossil fuel and other polluting companies, some governments have found their hands have been tied. Even today, when faced with a mountain of evidence many in the US still don't believe that global warming exists and report it as such in popular media. As the country with the second largest total amount of CO2 released every year, it is a concern.

However, it is the role of everybody to show those who don't believe that global warming is an issue, that the impact it could have would be devastating. One of the key ways to do this is through data and modelling.

Organizations like NASA have been taking this kind of work very seriously and have utilized some of the most powerful computers in the world to create models and collect data to try and work out what might happen in various different scenarios. It is something that would have been practically impossible only 10 years ago, with the amount of information necessary to model accurately simply too much to deal with. With the use of more complex and powerful systems, it has allowed scientists to input petabytes of historical data to help establish the most accurate models possible.

The importance of this comes from being able to educate people about the genuine damage that could be done unless we start to pull back from the edge where the damage becomes irreversible.

The importance of these models and the power that the computers have is also that it is not just one or two organizations using them, according to Gavin Schmidt from NASA, there are around 30 around the world. Despite using different models, technology and a variation of data, they are broadly finding a consensus, giving added weight to the argument that more needs to be done.

However, data has a far more important impact than just identifying the problem, it will be an essential part of how the problems are combated.

As modelling allows for the data to be changed, it means that these organizations can quickly and easily identify the actions that will have the biggest impacts on the fight against global warming. They are therefore helping governments to make the biggest impacts through their actions. For instance, it is widely known that a major cause of global warming is livestock for meat production, where over a billion cows across the world make up around 14% of all greenhouse gases in the world. They are also a major source of deforestation with thousands of acres of trees removed daily further decreasing the chances for the planet to reach equilibrium. Making people eat less meat would therefore have a significant impact on global warming, but would certainly not be understood by many without data backing it up.

Having this ability to not simply try something, but test it beforehand is the most powerful element of data in the fight against global warming. It gives governments a unique opportunity to not simply try something and hope, but to do so with implicit targets and outcomes created.

With talks ongoing around the world to try and find a solution to the biggest challenges being faced by the world, this kind of use of data will play a huge part in the outcome and will hopefully act as catalyst and key driver for change. 

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