Le Big Tech they are hard at work trying to reduce the environmental impact of their production line, and this is undeniable. But is the strategy of the big industry giants really working? Alphabet, Microsoft e Salesforce they promised they will invest 500 million dollars in technology that is supposed to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce global warming. With this announcement, the companies are presenting themselves as global leaders in climate change action. Yet despite this, Big Tech still has a lot to do. Removing carbon dioxide alone will certainly not reduce the pollution they cause. And this the companies know.
Big Tech and Climate Change: A Picture of the Current Situation
Despite the efforts of the tech giants, the climate crisis seems to have become so serious that UN experts are forced to acknowledge that the only reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of fossil fuels will no longer be enough. A report published by the UN in April, in fact, supports the need to find the right way to absorb tons of CO2 already released into the atmosphere. And he specifies that “CDR to offset residual emissions that are difficult to abate is inevitable” in scenarios that limit global warming to the level of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Generally, by “residual emissions difficult to abate” we mean those coming from theheavy industry and heavy transport (sea or aviation).
In reality, there is much more pressure on heavy industries than on Big Tech for decarbonisation. Yet last year the World Economic Forum launched the initiative “First Movers Coalition“, Which includes Microsoft, Salesforce and Alphabet, which aims to address precisely those emissions that are difficult to abate. In reality, for the tech giants the goal should be to prevent the majority of emissions – if not, indeed, to eliminate them -. On the other hand, it is clear that there is the possibility of reducing emissions for the activities of the Big Tech data centers. Yet the companies seem to be mainly committed to the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphererather than on the abatement of its production. Stripe, Alphabet, Meta, Shopify are just some of the companies that have invested in this technology. In 2020, however, it was Microsoft that promoted removing more carbon dioxide than it emits by 2030.
Yet despite Big Tech’s commitment to the climate, emissions from many companies continue to rise. The emissions of Microsoftfor example, they went from around 11.6 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020 to around 14 million tons in 2021. In fact, with the growth of its business, pollution due to the use of devices and cloud services has also grown. And the same goes for the business of Salesforcewhich in 2022 issued over 1 million tons of CO2. Through a careful offsetting strategy, however, both tech giants try to nullify the amount of emissions. Yet offsetting projects do not guarantee the permanent removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
In this sense, carbon dioxide removal technology would appear to be a good possible solution. “We are proud of the progress we have made, but we also rely on a global system that needs to change,” he says Max Scher, senior director of sustainability at Salesforce. “We are focused on what science tells us we need to do to limit warming to 1.5 ° C.” Among the solutions proposed by Scher are the renewable energies, nature-based solutions and “carbon removal”. But will they be enough to allow Big Tech to save the Planet?