Solving the climate crisis: How tech can be part of the solution

Photo of a drought-stricken landscape - climate crisis
(Image credit: CC0 Creative Commons)

Climate change is one of the most pressing threats to our everyday lives.

Devastating floods, heatwaves, droughts, and storms are among the ‘new norm’ of extreme weather events impacting the planet and billions of people around the globe. COP26, where nations committed to stepping up their actions to tackle climate change, highlighted the severity of the crisis and the urgency with which we must act.

About the author

Neelam Sandhu is SVP and Chief Elite Customer Success Officer at BlackBerry (opens in new tab).

In Europe alone, more than 200 lives were lost during unprecedented floods across the continent this summer, making clear the immediate risks and challenges posed by climate change. The crisis is no longer an issue for tomorrow, it is a reality we are living today following centuries of human actions. What’s more, we are leaving future generations with a very bleak outlook.

Add to this the fact that two billion people globally lack access to clean water and climate change will increasingly limit access, and no one can call this anything but a humanitarian disaster.

Whilst we cannot change the past we can, with collective and immediate efforts, begin to reverse the impact of our actions. Tackling the issue requires the urgent and combined effort of governments, organizations, and individuals. Furthermore, leveraging technology will be integral to our fight to protect people, wildlife, and our planet.

Technology in a time of crisis

To effectively respond to climate events, organizations and communities need the help of advanced technologies. Technologies, such as a critical event management solutions, must both help to reduce carbon emissions and build resilience against the consequences of climate change. Critical event management (opens in new tab) platforms provide communities with a networked communications infrastructure, which is secure, intelligent, reliable and enables collaboration (opens in new tab) in a crisis. They can be used around the world today, by governments, humanitarian organizations, enterprises, communities, and more, and has helped to save countless lives.

A critical event management solution can ingest information from a range of sources, including cyber, IT, weather, physical security (opens in new tab), and Internet of Things (IoT (opens in new tab)) sensor systems. During a crisis the technology can then autonomously invoke predefined alerting protocols and the appropriate response teams to collaboratively respond. The response can include communications to targeted audiences, designed to alert them to the crisis, account for their safety, and gather situational intelligence during the crisis and through the recovery phase.

As a society living with the results of climate change, it is important that we begin to leverage autonomous technologies to enable public safety. Technologies that monitor the environment for signs of impending danger, such as flood risks, and proactively alert communities to risks so timely action can be taken. These technologies must gather significant amounts of data (opens in new tab), continuously, and take intelligent action based on the data.

Flood-prevention & protection

Floods are affecting more and more communities, particularly vulnerable groups who are often disproportionately impacted by these issues. Innovative technology can protect these groups by providing autonomous year-round monitoring and an intelligent early warning system. This technology collects and processes large amounts of sensor data, and generates alerts based on the data insights.

Automated flood technology can also identify seasonal and unseasonal water-related risks and generate significant cost savings for governments, utility companies and local communities. By implementing such a solution, local municipalities can save thousands or more annually in operating expenses, in addition to the environmental, safety, health, and other benefits of early warning flood mitigation and clean water.

Collaboration through the cold

Last year, Texas was the hardest hit of all the US states by winter storms and freezing temperatures, prompted by a ‘topsy turvy’ polar vortex. The state experienced widespread power outages with many forced to evacuate their homes following burst pipes and power outages. For BlackBerry, deploying a widespread company alert, to send a weather warning to those who may be affected, was pivotal to stopping a severe weather event developing into a humanitarian crisis. This assisted many of my colleagues.

During the crisis, one of my colleagues was left without power and dealing with burst pipes in his apartment. He and his wife were forced to evacuate but realized they had nowhere to go – hotels were fully booked, and they had no family nearby. He connected with his manager using this type of technology and arranged to stay in the BlackBerry office that night.

Outside, the situation continued to worsen, as critical infrastructure broke down unable to handle the extreme temperatures. The power outage continued, now coupled with widespread ‘boil water’ advisories. Organizations using an alert system were able to account for the whereabouts of hundreds of people.

Wildfire preparedness

Across the globe, many countries have also experienced unusually long fire seasons in recent years. In January 2021 for example, wildfires in California burned twenty times more land area than the five-year average. In 2019 and 2020, bushfires in Australia took the lives of thirty-three people, including nine firefighters, and destroyed more than three thousand homes. Climate change was considered a key driver of each of these disasters.

While emergency responders try their best to contain the spread of these fires, they cause significant damage and the loss of life. They can also disrupt critical infrastructure, such as transportation, landline communications, water distribution networks and more. A critical event management platform can help save lives and minimize other impacts.

As a key component for business continuity, critical event management platforms can be useful during wildfires to send timely alerts to individuals in affected and at-risk areas and to identify those in need of help. Organizations have used the solution to securely collaborate during a wildfire event, sharing on-the-ground intelligence and coordinating critical resources.

Protecting our planet’s future

In the past eighteen months, communities around the world have been affected by an unprecedented range of major events, from floods, to wildfires, and a pandemic. It is clear that we must be increasingly ready to adapt and respond to planned and unplanned crisis. Collaboration during these times is a necessity, across nations, governments, businesses, communities, and individuals. Having a critical event management strategy and solution, which accomplishes this, can save lives and keep your operations running during the most difficult and unexpected of times.

Neelam Sandhu is SVP and Chief Elite Customer Success Officer at BlackBerry.