While 2020 was all about fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 may see a renewed focus on another big challenge, namely climate change.
Ironically, the pandemic has triggered much needed climate-friendly actions. Businesses have increased their utilisation of digital tools, reducing the need for workers to commute and travel.
“We believe governments will use the momentum of 2020 to pave the way for a green recovery in 2021 in the wake of the pandemic’s destructiveness. Digital technologies will play a major role in contributing to effective solutions for other energy-intensive sectors, influencing consumer and producer behaviour. A World Economic Forum study highlights that digital technology can cut global emissions by 15 percent, and we expect to see several emission cuts happen already in 2021,” predicts Sandberg.
Not only will we see climate laws come into action, but AI will also, on a greater scale than ever before, enable smart energy solutions. In cities all over the globe, AI will be implemented to optimise energy consumption in data centres or mobile base stations. It will help make renewable energy, such as wind power, more predictable, and ‘smarten’ up cities by optimising transport and predicting air quality. We will also see the first signs of AI-powered micro IoT devices, called Tiny Machine Learning (TinyML), start operating. TinyML represents the next AI revolution. In 2021, we expect to see a fleet of ultra-small and ultra-low powered drones take to the sky to expand drone monitoring of climate-exposed areas – done on a scale greater than previously thought possible.
Outside the cities, new autonomous modular robots will work in the fields, supporting farmers struggling to find enough agricultural workers. Mechanical weeding with machine vision will streamline the use of pesticides, thus contributing to reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. The new robots will also be considerably smaller and lighter compared to their predecessors, reducing the energy consumption and the soil compaction impact.
“After Covid-19, one of our biggest challenges will again be the climate crisis. Positively, governments, and the EU in particular, are thinking green when allocating funds for recovery. Expect to see a boom in green tech and an increasing focus on energy efficiency,” adds Sandberg.
We’ve also forecasted the post-pandemic era. Do you agree with our researchers?