Open Source: A way to help preventing rapid climate change
Isabella Ferreira
Published at 03/02/2022
Blog
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Never before in human history have we been richer, more advanced and powerful. Yet, we feel overwhelmed with rapid climate change. As we all know, climate change is widespread and intensifying. The plot below, extracted from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NORA) 2021 annual climate report, shows how the temperature of land and ocean is crazily increasing over time.

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Image extracted from the NORA's 2021 Annual Climate Report

The public debate about stopping rapid climate change often focuses on a few key features such as coal plants, cars, or cows. With that, the solutions are often simplistic -- rows of solar panels, biking to work, and actions related to sustainability. The huge talking point is personal responsibility. How should you change your lifestyle to prevent rapid climate change? Or, more simply, what can you do to help prevent rapid climate change? This is what we will talk about in this blog post.

Innovating through open source is a way to help preventing rapid climate change

Although the most impactful steps we can take to tackle climate change must happen at the governmental level, we can still do many things as a citizen, a consumer, an employee or employer. One way to do that is through open source projects.
To give a little bit of context, before the COP26 (held this year in Glasgow between 31st October and 12th November 2021), innovation was barely discussed during a COP. The goal this year was different, shift the focus to inventing clean technologies. Basically, innovation is the only way that the world can cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Investment on research and development to stop climate change and on startups of hard-to-decarbonise sectors grew in 2021 more than ever. With the high demand for investment and innovation, tech-focused funds are estimated to hit a record of $21 billion in capital raised in 2021 [3]. Additionally, venture capital investment in climate tech companies is expected to reach $49 billion by the end of this year [3]. As a result of this investment, some important clean technologies were created and are being created, such as electric cars, sustainable airplane fuel, and extra-powerful batteries.
After the creation of such technologies, the biggest challenge is to scale! That means that lab-proven concepts need to turn into products that people want and can afford to buy. This can take time and money! To speed up things, I believe that innovation through open source is the way to go! A variety of open source initiatives have been involved in helping to tackle climate change with different goals, as below.

Measuring and monitoring climate change

Instrumentation and sensors play a key role in gathering information necessary to better understand the environmental and weather pattern changes we’re experiencing [2]. Data can be gathered in a variety of ways such as thermometers, air samples, satellite images of ice in Polar regions, and weather tracking. For that, the Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing, and embedded devices are very useful to collect and process these measurements. Linux runs in 3 out of 4 embedded devices, IoT gateways or edge nodes that use an OS [2].
Furthermore, the Linux Foundation announced in 2020 the Climate Finance Foundation (LFCF), which is a foundation that intends to collaborate in an open source project called the OS-Climate platform. The main idea of the OS-Climate platform is to provide easy access to certain types of climate data in which people can combine this information with other data and use it for risk analysis [4]. Overall, the platform will include economic and physical risk scenarios that investors, companies, and financial analysts can use for their analysis [3].
Another interesting open source initiative is the Project Owl, alsoan initiative of the Linux Foundation. Owl stands for "Organization, Whereabouts, and Logistics" and it is an IoT initiative to enable emergency communications in the event of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes. This project will enable a global network of developers to accelerate the development of mesh networks that can help save lives following a natural disaster [1].
Finally, the open source project Cloud Carbon Footprint helps projects that use the cloud to understand how the cloud usage impacts the environment and what can be done about it.

Data modeling and predictive analysis

A number of open source projects were specifically designed to help to accurately understand the evolution of environmental and climate changes.
The Open Climate Workbench is an effort to develop software that performs climate model evaluation using model outputs from a variety of different sources such as the Earth System Grid Federation, the Coordinated Regional Climate Downscaling Experiment, the U.S. National Climate Assessment and the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program and temporal/spatial scales with remote sensing data from NASA, NOAA and other agencies. The toolkit includes capabilities for rebinning, metrics computation and visualization.
Another example is Isca. Isca contains models that are easy to obtain, completely free, documented, and come with software to make installation and running easier. All changes are documented and can be reverted.

TLDR-summary:

The effort of open source communities can make innovations be developed more quickly, so that governments and businesses can make better informed decisions on how to tackle climate change. You can help by either contributing to one of the existing open source projects or by creating your own open source initiative.

About the author:

Isabella Ferreira is an Ambassador at TARS Foundation, a cloud-native open-source microservice foundation under the Linux Foundation.

References

[1] https://www.linuxfoundation.org/press-release/the-linux-foundation-open-sources-hardware-of-disaster-relief-project-that-won-first-call-for-code-global-challenge-led-by-ibm/
[2] https://www.suse.com/c/3-ways-open-source-is-helping-to-tackle-climate-change/
[3] https://techcrunch.com/sponsor/svb/increased-investment-in-climate-tech-aims-for-a-clean-future/
[4] https://www.greenbiz.com/article/open-source-movement-takes-climate-data