Well, this topic is certainly well-timed with the recent worldwide release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report on August 9, 2021. For those who have not heard the news, the report claims that our planet’s climate change is in ‘code red’ for humanity. We have reached the point where the damage is done and will now accelerate autonomously for the next few decades. The only chance that humanity has to mitigate this inevitability is to slow its acceleration, which brings me to this week’s topic for renewable technology: environmental sensors.

The climate crisis (make no mistake, this is a crisis now!) is now here. Worldwide droughts, heat waves, flooding, hurricanes, and forest fires are running rampant and will not be changing anytime soon. In fact, according to the IPCC report, they will only get worse in the next ten years and beyond. The only chance humanity has is to start making massive changes to how we generate energy and manufacture goods in every country. However, while making these changes, it is equally important to monitor the environment for changes. This is where sensors come into play. The sensors would enable us to monitor our progress and aid in more accurate projections. In other words, it would provide the data to ensure we are on the right track and prove that we can mitigate the damage with effective emissions reduction.

Sensors could be used to monitor air pollution, water pollution, hazardous waste contamination, and industrial emissions, among others. More data in these sectors would show us how to prioritise our efforts at different stages of the climate crisis fight and guide legislation and public policies. The most exciting version of this technology is “smart” sensors, which represents the future of this technology. Smart sensors would react to scenarios like pipeline leaks and pollutant detection to fix the problem quicker, and possibly even help pre-emptively identify natural disasters. For example, smart sensors would be used to monitor the release of carbon dioxide or methane (biproduct of natural gas), which both exacerbate the climate crisis.

According to AZO Cleantech, the sensors would use silicon photonics, which use light to transfer data. They could be installed on the ground, within infrastructure, or suspended in the air. The concept is that each sensor would be part of a network of sensors, which would collect and extrapolate data as one entity. Just imagine a network of sensors in the environment reacting to changes in real-time the same way our brain tells us when we have pain or an itch. The earth is a giant organism, and it is running a fever because we exploit its riches for selfish gain and give nothing in return. If we do not make massive changes to our way of life, humanity will be obliterated from the earth like the immune system does to a virus in a human body.

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