ESG Blog

How can better data help fight global warming?

Best Practices ESG Sustainability Reporting
  • December 22, 2021 | Michelle Winters
How can better data help fight global warming?

How can better data help fight global warming?

While the terms "global warming" and "climate crisis" are still contentious, there is no denying that the planet is getting hotter. Since the Industrial Revolution, the Earth has warmed by at least 1.1°C. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's most authoritative climate body, the Earth's average temperature will rise by 2.5°C to 10°C during the next 100 years.

What does this imply for the globe as a whole? Rising temperatures will undoubtedly melt arctic sheet ice and cause sea-level rise, potentially flooding coastal cities, force millions of people to migrate, trigger ecosystem collapse, and cause life-threatening heatwaves, droughts, storms, and wildfires that will affect at least half of the planet, nearly four billion people, on a regular basis.

The recent COP26 climate talks in Glasgow determined that mankind will lose its chance to control global warming unless actions to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are strengthened immediately.

The commitment to net zero

Six years ago, world leaders gathered in Paris to discuss climate challenges and negotiate a climate agreement under the auspices of the United Nations (UN). The Paris Agreement aims to keep global average temperature rise to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels, a goal that scientists and vulnerable populations increasingly believe the world cannot afford to fail.

To achieve this, 193 countries pledged to significantly and collectively reduce GHG emissions, the principal source of global warming. Despite these pledges, scientists reported at COP26 that the Earth is on track to warm by nearly 2.5°Cs, exceeding the world's common climate goal by a full degree.

In turn, nations agreed to increase their carbon-cutting commitments, phase out fossil fuels, and provide aid to poor countries on the front lines of climate change as a result. What’s the issue? So far, international leaders' commitments have not been matched by tangible action.

Researchers from the UN discovered a significant gap between countries' long-term promises to eliminate carbon emissions and official, short-term plans known as "nationally determined contributions." Based on these gaps, the projected level of warming by the end of the century is only about 0.1 degree lower than before COP26 began.

The net zero target will fast become unattainable without substantial legislative changes and a significant transition away from fossil fuels. According to researchers, focusing on short-term pledges that need immediate action will help political leaders achieve success and ensure that they can be held accountable.

While existing climate plans from countries like Brazil, China, and Australia are a start, they still anticipate a 2.7°C increase in global temperature.

The need for better data

While half of the world's biggest economies have yet to meet their 2015 targets, the International Energy Agency claims that if all net zero promises are completed promptly, global warming could be limited to 1.8°C. The problem? According to a Washington Post investigation, many countries are providing the UN with inaccurate data.

The article stated, “An examination of 196 country reports reveals a giant gap between what nations declare their emissions to be vs. the greenhouse gases they are sending into the atmosphere. The gap ranges from at least 8.5 billion to as high as 13.3 billion tons a year of underreported emissions—big enough to move the needle on how much the Earth will warm.”

Each country is required by the Paris Agreement to determine, plan, and report on its contributions on a regular basis. Yet there is no system that requires a country to set particular emissions objectives, and negotiators are now working on requirements for countries to publish their anticipated emissions. This will require clear, measurable, and transparent data, regardless of the targets or restrictions specified.

How data can help slow global warming

Climate change is a complicated topic, and data-driven models and decisions can help us better comprehend it. There are three sorts of data that can be used to analyze climate change:

  1. Data science, which is a new interdisciplinary field tied to machine learning.
  2. Machine learning, which is a technique for enhancing automatic prediction and decision-making systems.
  3. Big data, which is a technique for analyzing and linking enormous amounts of disparate data.

The term "big data" refers to the value extracted from big data rather than the data itself. Data collection, processing, analysis, and storage are the three basic categories of big data.

Big data-based technologies can be used to track information such as atmospheric changes, sea-level rise, and manage climate change risks. Machine learning can assist scientists in developing new solutions to combat climate change, such as isolating greenhouse gases from coal, for example.

Humanity can better control the Earth's environment and foresee the effects of climate change by using data from sensors and satellites. Big data also aids the ability to forecast the effects of global warming on the agricultural industry.

By pinpointing harmful emissions and identifying pressure spots in the supply chain, big data, both historical and real-time, can aid in problem-solving.

ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) data is another crucial piece of information needed to slow global warming. Environmental reporting data, in particular, is critical in ensuring that specific countries can reach their emissions targets based on individual companies' reporting efforts.

Environmental criteria are concerned with a company's environmental impact. ESG data solutions help assess energy usage, pollutant outputs, water management, and other environmental impacts, in addition to climate change measures. Companies can use ESG data to quantify carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gas emissions over time and track their carbon footprint on a global scale.

ESG-focused efforts can also immediately improve the measurement and reporting of GHG emissions in an integrated, comprehensive, and transparent way. While ESG extends far beyond environmental issues and provides benefits of improving companies' societal outcomes and governance practices, environmental-specific reporting provides a tangible step toward reducing Earth's rising temperatures.

ESG: A step toward net zero

Climate change is a difficult problem to solve. Governments must set direction and targets through rules and regulations, and firms must follow through on these mandates as part of this process.

ESG research, data, reporting, and other considerations can help hold firms accountable and regulate the flow of capital that has a significant influence on climate change. Environmental variables provide a wealth of information that allows us to better comprehend a company's influence on biodiversity, its carbon footprint, and the financial risks connected with climate change disasters.

In a nutshell, this information is used to determine global financial risk and how firms are collectively contributing to the slowing or acceleration of global warming.

ESG materiality assessments

With investors inquiring more and more frequently about what your company is doing in regard to responsible investment, how you treat employees and vendors, your dedication to sustainability initiatives, and other activities that fall under the ESG umbrella, it’s important to have answers to these questions.

An ESG materiality assessment empowers you to easily report on your current state and outline future initiatives while taking into consideration your business goals and risks. Download our guide to creating and extracting the maximum strategic value from an ESG materiality assessment.

Download guide

Michelle Winters

Michelle Winters is our VP of Sales. Previous to this role she oversaw the account management & consulting teams. Michelle's roles have allowed her to successfully ensure that our clients see increased value, optimization of their strategies, and the right solutions to position them for growth and success.

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