The world is in a climate crisis. Every year we add another 50 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Microsoft is tackling this head-on, with plans to be carbon negative within the decade.
The climate crisis
Climate change is a scientific fact, as prone to controversial political debate as it might be. The ozone layer has been irretrievably damaged by the two trillion tons of greenhouse gases emitted accumulatively.
This issue is now more in the public media than ever before. Campaigners like Greta Thunberg have captured our imaginations and explained climate change in a way we can all understand.
Our planet has risen in temperature by one-degree centigrade. If this continues to rise, we are in very serious trouble. Rising temperatures are causing the polar ice caps to melt. Climate change is threatening whole ecosystems and species, with many now sadly extinct. These changes are causing catastrophic natural disasters.
Carbon is the culprit. With a blanket of gas surrounding Earth, heat is trapped and is causing our world to heat up. Carbon takes thousands of years to disperse, so the more we emit, the worse the problem gets.
”The amount of heat being added to the oceans is equivalent to every person on the planet running 100 microwave ovens all day and all night.” https://t.co/yRGu8p98nH
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) January 14, 2020
Carbon neutral vs carbon negative
Being carbon neutral is a start. This means either reducing or offsetting carbon produced, resulting in a net release of zero carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Humankind must reach net-zero emissions to survive.
Carbon negative is taking things further. This involves not only reducing or offsetting emissions to bring them to zero, but also actively removing carbon from the atmosphere.
Microsoft says it will remove all of the carbon it has produced since the company began in 1975. That is a massively ambitious statement, but one we must applaud.
Amazon say that will be carbon neutral by 2040. If Microsoft achieve their aspirations, Amazon will look starkly inactive in comparison.
They say that they will be carbon negative by 2030, and will have produced the last 45 years’ worth of carbon from the atmosphere by 2050. President Brad Smith says:
When it comes to carbon, neutrality is not enough. If we don’t curb emissions, and temperatures continue to climb, science tells us that the results will be catastrophic.
How will they do it?
Making a pledge is one thing, but achieving it is something else. Microsoft has really thought this through, and created timeframes to achieve their goals.
Much of this pressure, though, is being passed on to their supply chain. Cuts to emissions are ‘aggressive’ and will halve carbon created both directly and through Microsoft manufacturing.
They are expanding their ‘carbon fee’. This was introduced in 2012 and creates a charge to offset the carbon produced to result in a net-zero impact.
One of the initiatives is the billion-dollar Climate Innovation Fund. This will be used to implement new technologies to reduce and remove carbon. Microsoft intends to be held to these promises, with a yearly Environmental Sustainability Report to detail the progress made so far.
All told, this is brilliant news for the planet. Once one tech giant starts making their pledges, others are sure to follow. As consumers become more conscious of climate change, we are starting to choose our products more carefully, selecting brands that we know to be environmentally sustainable.
Using technology for good is becoming critical to our societies, and to our planet. If we are going to find a way not just to stop harming the Earth, but to start healing it, carbon negativity is a good place to start.