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A cool and sunny mid-September San Francisco morning was the perfect  juxtaposition to the scene outside of Moscone Center on Thursday, September 13 as hundreds of civic, NGO, and business leaders filed into the Global Climate Action Summit. Their goal: to turn up the heat on climate change commitments and emerge with plans to act.

 

What you may not know is that climate change is something that technology companies — like Salesforce — care a lot about. In fact, the tech industry has actually become one of the biggest stakeholders in turning a corner on climate change, applying agile methodologies, new technologies and innovations, and a wealth of resources (both human and otherwise) to do what the world hasn’t been able to accomplish so far.

 

 

It’s easy to see climate change as a reactionary issue. Tech companies, however, view it as an opportunity to shape the future with  technology as the means to solve the world’s growing environmental problems. What is missing is commitment and investment from industry and government.

 

“Climate change is a political problem,not a technical problem,” observed Oxfam’s Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima in a panel discussion on climate leadership. “Innovation is a matter of will.” Fortunately, we’re already seeing this play out in the developing world — from large, renewable investments in China and India to the deployment of utility-scale solar in South Africa. And while these steps show initiative and investment in the future within these specific countries, there’s still a vacuum of leadership elsewhere.

 

It really comes down to a problem of scale. We need a scalable solution to address climate change head on. But who can do that?

 

The future belongs to those who can

 

For Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, a fix for climate change aligns closely with the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution — wherein ubiquitous mobile computing, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), and other smart technologies can reshape how we live, work, and relate to one another and the world around us.

These technologies influence the actions of billions of people everyday, through search, eCommerce, and social media. This makes them ideal to affect decarbonization. After all, small changes can yield big results when scaled to billions of users.

 

“This is a make or break moment,” said Benioff. “We must act and we must act now.” It’s also what today’s customers expect, especially among the younger generations.

There’s a lot of substance behind this. Salesforce runs net zero carbon operations today. This is a big deal — and there’s pride in that claim. Fortunately, it also pressures (in a good way) industry peers to step up and do the same.

 

 

The digital world is a prolific source of carbon emissions. By some estimates, it accounts for up to 830 million tons of CO2 annually from the electrical grid demands of emails, searches, and files. A typical search that passes through a carbon intensive electrical grid is roughly the equivalent of driving a mid-size car for 15 metres (~50 feet).

 

This is emblematic of a movement to build a cleaner power grid. Just this week, California Governor, Jerry Brown signed legislation that commits California — now the world’s fifth largest economy — to 100% renewable energy and commit to deeper cuts in carbon emissions from all sources. In fact, Governor Brown joined  Michael Bloomberg in a press conference to introduce America’s Pledge: a roadmap for the U.S. to meet its 2015 Paris Climate Agreement goals. This is all within reach thanks to new technologies and the will to act. “We have market forces at our back, so I like our chances,” said Bloomberg.

 

Learn more about the Global Climate Action Summit and what you can do to disrupt climate change here.