6520

Shaping the Future of our Environment

future of environment feature photo

Shaping the Future of our Environment

The Current State

Climate change has been a prominent topic in the news as of late, as numerous reports have painted rather discouraging pictures depicting its current state.

Humans are releasing nearly 10 times more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than what was emitted during Earth’s last major warming event, the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which took place 56 million years ago. This is according to a new study published in the AGU journal of Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology,

For the Earth’s oceans, 2018 was the hottest year on record, since scientists started to measure ocean temperatures in the mid-1950s. If we continue to emit greenhouse gasses as projected, sea levels could rise an entire foot between now and the year 2100.

Many are realizing that now is the time to act, and politicians, as well as students, are joining the fight. Recently, hundreds of French students took to the streets of Paris to demand more action to fight climate change. Similarly, thousands of British children skipped school to march in London’s Parliament Square, carrying signs with slogans such as “Climate change is worse than homework.”  

On March 15, a number of co-ordinated “school strikes,” were held in more than 100 countries worldwide, including Canada. That day, students around the globe skipped class to protest climate change.

The Green New Deal, introduced by New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, aims to shift completely to renewable and zero-emission energy sources over the next 10 years. Actions include upgrading every building in the country to be more energy-efficient, and investing in electric vehicles and high-speed rail.

2018 was the hottest year on record for the Earth’s oceans, since scientists started to measure ocean temperatures in the mid-1950s.

Innovative Solutions to Big Problems

“It’s time for industry to step up and embrace fixing climate change,” Yung Wu, CEO of MaRS Discovery District, recently wrote. “We don’t have an innovation problem, we have an adoption problem.” MaRS, one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, incubates more than 200 clean technology ventures. The clean technology industry, he notes, is expected to be worth $2.2 trillion in 2022.

SingularityU Canada faculty Jane Kearns is a senior advisor with MaRS Cleantech. She is a recognized leader in sustainable innovation, and has extensive experience growing successful companies at the intersection of business and sustainability. For her, innovation & commercialization of clean technologies is an area of focus.

Canada is now recognized as a leader in cleantech, as 12 Canadian firms have secured a spot on the 2019 Global Cleantech 100 list. Currently, more than 800 existing cleantech companies and innovators in Canada are working to help mitigate the effects of climate change, and the sector is among the fastest-growing industries worldwide.

Cleantech helps traditional industries to operate more efficiently. Creating sustainable construction materials, purifying contaminated water and improving energy efficiency in buildings are some of the efforts.

On February 12, the Government of Canada announced a near $13 million investment  in four Calgary-based cleantech companies. “When it comes to clean technology, Canada has the opportunity to be a true global leader, creating good middle-class jobs for Canadians while helping meet our climate change goals,” said Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains.

Some examples of cleantech leadership across Canada:

E3P Technologies Inc. a Calgary-based company that has developed a compact, zero emissions compressor. With the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, they are looking to eliminate methane leaks from natural gas compression.

eCAMION Inc. – a turn-key solution provider for the community energy storage industry.  The company, based in Toronto, is working on a current project that aims to shift Alberta’s diesel-fueled transit buses to electric.

Ecotagious A Vancouver-based company, whose SaaS-based solution uses a combination of big data analytics, disaggregation, machine learning and behavioral science. Each customer’s consumption data is analyzed, and they are then provided with personalized insights, peer comparisons & savings recommendations tailored just for them. For the second year, the company was recently awarded the 2019 ‘Ready to Rocket’ CleanTech award.

Sultech Global Innovation Corp. a Calgary-based company that was given $900,000 to turn elemental sulphur, a by-product of energy development, into a soil additive that will improve both the quality and quantity of crops.

 

Numerous companies are participating in the worldwide shift towards sustainability.

With the recently launched AI Global Impact Challenge, Google is dedicating $25 million for the development of artificial intelligence (AI)-based products that address societal and environmental challenges. “We’re all grappling with questions of how AI should be used. AI truly has the potential to improve people’s lives,” said the company’s Google’s artificial intelligence chief Jeff Dean.

At the 2019 SingularityU Canada Summit in April, Energy is one of the global grand challenges of focus, along with Health, Prosperity, and Citizenship. Jane Kearns is one of the speakers who will be at the Summit, speaking on the topic of cleantech and how Canada can take the lead.