10 Ways Technology Has Speeded Up Global Warming

By Alice Chen on June 29 2020 in Environment

Thousands of people attend the People's Climate March to stand up against climate change. Image credit: Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock.com
Thousands of people attend the People's Climate March to stand up against climate change. Image credit: Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock.com
  • Technology may appear to be a savior in some ways, but in many other respects, it's actually contributing to climate change.
  • With technology improving the processes and efficiency with which big acres of land can be tended, it means more and more space is eaten up by massive farms that contribute to greenhouse gases.
  • Advancements to technology in the medical field and increased awareness of health risks through the internet and through more available research and disseminated information indirectly leads to a knock-on effect on the environment.

Global warming is a fact. Despite originally thinking that the impacts of greenhouse gases on the environment wouldn't be felt until much later, like a far-off danger to future generations, the change in the climate has now concretely begun to affect the quality of life and prospects of survival on this planet of ours. Efforts need to be made to stymie the growth of this problem but many fear that it will be too little much too late. Technology may appear to be a savior in some ways, but in many other respects, it's actually contributing to climate change. Here are 10 ways it has sped it up. 

10. Energy Consumption

Air pollution by smoke coming out of two factory chimneys. Industrial zone in the city. Kiev, Ukraine. Image credit: LALS STOCK/Shutterstock.com
Air pollution by smoke coming out of two factory chimneys. Industrial zone in the city. Kiev, Ukraine. Image credit: LALS STOCK/Shutterstock.com

This is a big one and one that makes a sort of intuitive sense. The rise of technology has meant that there are a whole host of new gadgets and gizmos for consumers and everyday people to fiddle with. To power all these new technologies we need to produce more energy and while there are strides being taken towards more environmentally friendly energy sources, a great deal of this energy is still coming from fossil fuels and other sources that emit greenhouse gases.

9. More Transportation

Image credit: think4photop/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: think4photop/Shutterstock.com

Hand in hand with the rise of tech toys to play with is a steep rise in transportation. Innovations in cars, planes, trains, and ships have made it possible for humans to travel all across the world with ease. And as time has gone on it's become increasingly cheap both to travel and to own an automobile to travel around in. An unfortunate side effect of all these movement enablers is that they almost always emit carbon that leads to a negative impact on the environment. This is an area that doesn't seem to be changing any time soon.  

8. Disposable Consumerist Culture

Image credit: Atsushi Hirao/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Atsushi Hirao/Shutterstock.com

Again, tying in with the first entry's focus on new technological gadgets is the rise of a culture geared towards consuming and getting the new tech gadgets. Basically, we live in a consumerist society focused on the hot new things. This naturally means lots of waste and production of unnecessary objects. As technology makes these toys increasingly cheap and easy to gain access to, more and more demand has appeared, taxing the world's resources, and creating a larger carbon footprint that matches this proliferation of technology. In fact, the stuff we consume is responsible for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

7. Creating Technology

Image credit: Asharkyu/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Asharkyu/Shutterstock.com

Creating technology, like new smartphones, laptops, and tablets requires access to certain non-renewable resources like precious metals and the coal and fossil fuels we burn in the process of production and refinement. On top of draining the world of these limited supplies, they also disrupt ecologies and generally act as a negative impact on the environment and area that is being mined out. The factories and various steps that go into the process of the creation of technology are also responsible for emitting carbon and contributing overall to global warming.  

6. Longer Lives

Image credit: Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Hyejin Kang/Shutterstock.com

Advancements to technology in the medical field and increased awareness of health risks through the internet and through more available research and disseminated information indirectly leads to a knock-on effect on the environment. People are living longer and longer, which in the end means that they'll be taxing the resources of the world to support them further, including in terms of their carbon footprint. Extended lifespans along with some continents that are massively increasing in population, all contribute to a greater and greater carbon burden on the world that scales up for each living person.  

5. Waste

Image credit: Lucian Coman/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Lucian Coman/Shutterstock.com

Inorganic waste produced is a testament to the energy already wasted. Each and every item in the landfill or the trash represents greenhouse gases already emitted in their creation and production. More to the point, it also costs resources to manage waste. The process can include moving it or even incinerating it or otherwise dealing with it in some capacity which ultimately costs energy and carbon emissions. The best option is to recycle electronics and other goods but this still puts it back into the energy using cycle, even if it is considerably less than would be otherwise used. 

4. Increasing reliance on plastics

Image credit: Photka/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Photka/Shutterstock.com

Plastic is one of the big technological innovations of the past years and it is now used to package nearly everything because it is durable, lightweight, and cheap. But despite its many advantages, it expends oil resources, accounting for about 4-8% of global oil consumption with this amount expected to increase to 20% by 2050 if reliance on plastic persists. It also creates carbon impacts every step of the way through its life cycle. It must be extracted from the ground, refined and even once it is thrown away can continue to releases greenhouse gases through its decomposition.

3. Farms

Aerial view on the combines and tractors working on the large wheat field. Image credit: Stockr/Shutterstock.com
Aerial view on the combines and tractors working on the large wheat field. Image credit: Stockr/Shutterstock.com

Agriculture is a big contributor to global warming especially given how vital it is to human society and thus how hard it is to reduce or eliminate. With technology improving the processes and efficiency with which big acres of land can be tended, through harvesters and the like, it means more and more space is eaten up by massive farms that contribute to greenhouse gases while also degrading the environment considerably. The advancement in farming tech also means that there is cheaper food which in turn drives up demand for environmentally expensive desires like red meat. 

2. Spread of Global Warming Myths

Global warming is not a myth. Image credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock.com
Global warming is not a myth. Image credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock.com

Perhaps the biggest advancement in recent times is the creation of the world wide web. Enter the internet and all the glory and shortcomings that it holds. It is now possible to enter communities where you only hear an echo chamber of ideas that you already agree with. And with the ease with which sites can be created and ideas proliferated quickly and to the masses, it's easy to get wrong information that looks legitimate especially through channels like Facebook. In the realm of climate change, this misinformation means deniers who refuse to believe it's happening and continue to use wantonly with little to no respect for the environment. 

1. Comfort

Image credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

The big point to tie all of this together is the matter of comfort. As we have advanced technologically we've become more and more accustomed to certain things, like having electricity, washing clothes whenever we want, driving cars, having the new technology we want to use, buying more and more of whatever we want, having a house, and throwing out whatever trash we want. No one wants to give up all these hard-won creature comforts to only make a negligible impact on the environment. The human love of technological comforts makes it so we stick to the status quo even when it's killing the planet. 

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