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Bill Gates recently published an interesting blog on the lessons we can learn from the impact of the coronavirus compared with the probable impact of climate change.
In comparing these two global crises - despite recognising the absolute devastation caused by COVID-19 - he sees Climate Change as an even bigger problem to humanity. As you may know, I fully agree with his observation.
A few months ago, I wrote a blog describing what we can learn from our global response to COVID-19 such that we could improve our response to climate change. The principal points I discussed were:
Based upon these observations what are the chances of our governments collectively stopping climate change? If the chances are low then what is the point of a country pushing to meet its decarbonisation targets?
Mr Gates highlighted the pandemic has caused an estimated 8% drop in global carbon emissions. While this may seem impressive under normal circumstances, he states: “What’s remarkable is not how much emissions will go down because of the pandemic, but how little” given the massive economic cost and societal sacrifice, which has been required to avert these carbon emissions in terms of global lockdowns and loss of life.
In addressing the number of deaths associated with both these global emergencies, Mr Gates calculates the current COVID-19 global death rate at 14/100,000 people. However, he estimates that by the end of the century, due to climate change, the death rate could be as high as 73/100,000 people. I believe this death rate will prove to be conservative.
The problem now lies in preventing these horrifying predictions from becoming reality. Mr Gates points out that you, "cannot get to zero emissions by flying and driving less" and also highlights:
“Climate science tells us why we need to deal with this problem, but not how to deal with it. For that, we’ll need biology, chemistry, physics, political science, economics, engineering, and other sciences.”
The question of “How” which Mr Gates references here is an absolutely key question and has been a major focus of mine, particularly in the context of the built environment.
In one of my recent blogs I described the Three Levels of How to Decarbonise. I believe what Mr Gates mentions above is an example of what I define as the first of the three “How’s”. Let’s consider - what are the three How’s?
The First ‘How’ is where a questioner will ask the general question “How do I decarbonise?”
This does not help the questioner. Most questioners will give up at this point because they do not know what to do. However, some will persevere and they will redefine their question.
Those who do pursue their quest will then realise they need to ask the second ‘How’. From my perspective, this would be “How do I decarbonise the Built Environment?”
There are many good, informative documents that provide this type of guidance. I have referenced two examples: one is by the UNEP; and the other is by the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland. If the questioner gets to this point they realise there is a Third ‘How’ that needs to be asked.
“How can I ensure that I implement the right combination of solutions to decarbonise buildings, campuses, communities cost effectively and ensure they stay decarbonised?”
Last year IES launched a new physics based Digital Twin technology to address the Third How. This technology is called the Intelligent Communities Lifecycle or ICL and is a prime example of a solution which draws on the strengths of physics and engineering, as Mr Gates suggests, to provide a real tangible answer to the question of ‘how’ to decarbonise.
The ICL helps a user look at any number of buildings and the energy systems required to support them. What makes our technology special is that we have Digitised Physics® and can apply this to a Digital Twin of any building. This means that our Digital Twin has Physics Intelligence™, which is much more powerful than any form of AI when addressing the decarbonisation of the built environment. This technology can be applied to a greenfield or brownfield site, from early design/master planning stages, or to an existing group of buildings to:
With the ICL, we turn data into information of the quality and accuracy required to de-risk the decision making process and allow you to decarbonise more effectively. This is achieved by producing a Digital Twin that works across the complete time-line of any community; learning from/logging the past, managing the present, and road-mapping the future.
The ICL technology is essential if we are going to plan, design, control and manage a decarbonised built environment for every country in the world.
It helps the user to not only manage the day-to-day performance of their project/portfolio, but also answer a massive range of questions at any stage of the project lifecycle.
The ICL eliminates the need for spreadsheets and simple mathematical approaches that will otherwise continue to be used to design decarbonisation solutions. These are time-consuming, inefficient and inaccurate tools in today’s digital world and in particular with respect to the digitalisation of the built environment.
To use a COVID-19 analogy: Without providing the appropriate digital tools, we are asking stakeholders within the built environment to decarbonise without giving them PPE or the vaccine they need to do their job properly. We must ensure that we do not commit similar mistakes when decarbonising our built environment. Doing so would equate to the following:
IES’ world leading digital twin technology helps the user identify and weigh up the risks and potential savings to select the best options - prior to implementation - and monitor progress towards net-zero targets over time, with proven results.
It is exactly this technology that the world desperately needs to de-risk the decarbonisation of the built environment process.
In conclusion, with respect to Mr Gates call to consider how to solve climate change I would reply as follows:
"The IES ICL system addresses a major cause of climate change, the ‘Built Environment.’ It embodies the chemistry, physics, and engineering to consider all design and operational options as accurately as possible to help make the financial and technology decisions necessary to decarbonise the built environment and mitigate climate change."
The ICL can be a significant part of Mr. Gates’ how.