By now, most of us understand how crucial it is to reduce emissions and live sustainably, and are doing our part to reduce our carbon footprint through various means.
It is vital that industries do the same. Here is a summary of the outsized environmental impact that is being made by some of them, and the measures being taken to bring them in line:
Transportation accounts for 29 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. While driving can never be eliminated, emissions can at least be curtailed.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are working together to do the latter, by establishing standards that improve vehicles’ fuel efficiency. Through these regulations, a projected six billion metric tons of emissions will be cut over the lifetime of passenger vehicles sold between this year and 2025. Heavy-duty trucks, meanwhile, project a CO2 emission reduction of 270 million metric tons.
While carpooling, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing services can also help alleviate this problem, legislative changes could have as big an impact as any.
Generating electricity results in 28 percent of U.S. emissions. Coal, natural gas, and petroleum account for nearly two-thirds of our total electricity produced. Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, make up a mere 16.2 percent of electricity, but it stands to reason that we can shift our electricity to become more sustainable.
Again, a large part of the EPA’s strategy to combat emissions from electricity involves increasing efficiency of existing fossil-fuel power plants by using advanced technologies or by substituting natural gas or petroleum for coal. In addition, the EPA is seeking to increase end-use energy efficiency, hoping to reduce the total amount of energy needed to power homes, businesses, and industries. These efforts have removed over 290 million metric tons of emissions and saved Americans over $30 million in energy costs.
This sector makes up 22 percent of our emissions, whether by direct or indirect means. Direct emissions involve the burning of fuel or chemical reactions that are used to create products, from petroleum being used in making plastics to producing materials like iron, steel, and cement. Indirect emissions refer to the emissions created through the use of electricity to power the machines and facilities that create the products. In addition to this, a third of the emissions from industrial production are a result of leaks from natural gas and petroleum-based systems.
One of the main methods for reducing emissions in this sector is recycling. By using scrap steel and scrap aluminum to reproduce those materials, it saves time and energy that would otherwise be devoted to smelting new aluminum or forging steel. The EPA continues to espouse energy efficiency to reduce emissions, and the use of sensors — part of a larger trend toward the Industrial Internet of Things — can help with leak detection.
While these areas have mostly to do with business and large-picture changes, individuals can still work to reduce their own carbon footprint and to encourage those around them to do the same. By considering sustainability and emission reduction in one’s decisions as a consumer, it could very well lead to shifts in the market and urge businesses to change their practices.
Blockchain will forever be tied to the cryptocurrency bitcoin, and understandably so. That, however, is rapidly changing. CB Insights pointed out in April 2020 that over the three previous years, worldwide spending on blockchain solutions had nearly tripled, and predicted that annual outlays would reach $16 billion by 2023. That same organization went on to list no fewer than 58 businesses the technology could impact — everything from banking (naturally) to ride sharing to entertainment.
This is far from a novel viewpoint. Back in 2019, Computerworld predicted that decentralized ledger technology (DLT) such as blockchain exhibited the same potential once shown by TCP/IP, the very foundation of the world wide web. And indeed, by the end of 2020 top organizations in virtually every sector had implemented DLT.
Here are four sectors in which blockchain could make a particularly significant difference:
- Elections: It is not an exaggeration to say that some of the furor surrounding the 2020 U.S. presidential election could have been avoided by using blockchain — that fraud claims would have been a non-starter if e-voting were in place. It is safe, secure and can be done from home. It allows for accurate tracking and counting, as votes cast on a blockchain leave an audit trail. And the thing is, it has already been tried on a smaller scale, as West Virginia used it in a 2016 primary. In addition, a blockchain platform developed by an organization called Follow My Vote was used in a presidential election in Sierra Leone in 2018, and deemed accurate.
- Healthcare: There are those who wonder if healthcare might not be the ultimate use case for blockchain, given issues like patient misidentification and providers’ inability to safely share data. Another thing to consider is the sheer volume of data that must be processed, particularly during a healthcare crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Any of these matters can result in errors and unfavorable outcomes, but they can be avoided with blockchain technology. One prominent example is the manner in which electronic medical records can be accessed by multiple parties. In addition, a blockchain startup called Hu-manity has partnered with IBM on a ledger that according to a news release will enable patients to “claim property rights to their personal data,” allowing them to decide who sees it, and when.
- Real Estate: In 2017 the startup ShelterZoom became the first company to introduce a blockchain-based platform in the real estate space, one that according to a release at the time allows all parties “unprecedented speed, convenience, security and transparency” from beginning to end of a transaction. (And note that transparency is a particular pain point in this sector.) Other companies, like Propy and Ubitquity, have followed ShelterZoom’s lead, well aware that in addition to the aforementioned advantages, blockchain solutions greatly reduce the need for paper record-keeping.
- Supply Chain Management: Blockchain enables any party in the supply chain management sector to track a product throughout its journey, which Deloitte notes brings with it many advantages. A manufacturer can, for instance, ensure that its standards are met. Efficiency is improved. Monetary and material losses are decreased. There is less paperwork. Ultimately the consumer benefits from a better product, and one that is delivered in a more timely fashion. That in turn builds brand loyalty.
In short, the sky would appear to be the limit for blockchain, in any number of sectors. Far from being simply a cryptocurrency platform, it looms as a game-changing technology that allows for greater efficiency and security.