The impacts of climate change — from rising sea levels to intensifying natural disasters — are worsening every year in the Asia Pacific (Asia Pacific). Thankfully, people are not indifferent to the escalating situation. Google search results showed that sustainability-related queries set new records this year.
Hoping that these record levels of interest suggest ambitions to take action, Google’s held its “Solve for Sustainability” event las Nov. 22. The online event showcased how Google and their products are ready to help entities at all scales attain their sustainability goals.
Speaking at the event, Google Maps Engineering manager Victoria Wong emphasized that Asia Pacific cities will play an essential part in decreasing global carbon emissions levels.
She revealed that cities are responsible for about 70 percent of worldwide carbon emissions and that 7 out 10 of the world’s largest cities are found in the Asia Pacific region.
Wong zeroed in on one of the key challenges preventing these cities from acting sustainably: Sifting through the vast amounts of information available to them to figure out their optimal course of action.
“Officials in any city, no matter where they are, should have access to actionable insights to create meaningful change for the planet,” Wong asserted.
That’s why Google made available its Environmental Impact Explorer (EIE) data to 17,000 Asia Pacific cities so far. EIE data helps cities measure their carbon emissions and act on their environmental impact.
For example, In Mumbai, India, it has been used to identify emission hotspots and introduce effective cooling measures to bring down the city’s temperature. Information from EIE has also been used by cities such as Kyoto and Taipei to motor emissions and educate their citizens.
Organizations, whether they are non-profit entities with specific causes or businesses considering their environmental impact, can also advance their own sustainability goals by utilizing Google Earth Engine. The useful tool is meant for planetary scale environmental monitoring.
In other words, through cloud computing, this tool combines hundreds of satellites and earth observation data sets to show timely and accurate insights about the world’s ecosystems.
Throughout the Asia Pacific region, Google Earth Engine has already been employed to predict floods and droughts as well as monitor forest life cycles and biodiversity levels.
Partners like World Resources Institute in India are also using this tool to generate maps and the analysis needed to plan targeted interventions.
Additionally, customers using Google Cloud not only have zero net operational emissions, but are also able to use the tools to decarbonize their digital applications and infrastructure, while driving sustainable business transformation.
Google understands that individuals also can contribute to solving climate change.
Citing the International Panel on Climate Change’s AR6 report, Kate Brandt, Google’s chief sustainability officer explained: “In addition to the critical importance of governments taking action, of businesses taking action, individuals actually have a really crucial role to play. What the report said is that with policy support, about five percent of global emissions can be rapidly decreased through individual actions.”
“That’s where we see a huge opportunity for Google. We have this privilege that we have products that billions of people use everyday,” Brandt enthused. With this privilege comes responsibility. It is because of it that last year, the company resolved to assist their users in making 1 billion sustainable decisions through their products and Google has lost no time in working on this commitment.
One sustainable product that’s recently been rolled out for users’ in Singapore is the Google Maps and Search Air Quality feature. This features the air quality conditions for the day based on data from the Singaporean National Environment Agency. This data can help people decide to stay outdoors for the day or indoors to lessen exposure to pollution and consequently, bring more attention to the issue.
Besides this update, there are other Google Maps innovations targeted to aid individual users in making informed transportation choices. For instance, Eco Friendly Routing on Google Maps lets users select car trips with the least amount of carbon emissions.
Since its launch earlier this year in the US and Europe, it has reduced carbon emissions by half a million ton. The Asia Pacific launch of this feature is planned for 2023.
By leveraging AI, trusted data from sources like transit authorities, and community feedback from Maps users, Google is also making public transport more appealing to commuters.
People can see an area’s schedule, crowdedness, and details like accessible entrances and exits so that public transport becomes not only the sustainable choice, but the convenient one.
Lastly, another green transportation option the tech giant is offering its users is cycling. By integrating cycling directions in Google Maps in areas like Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Japan, Google aims to make this type of transportation practical for commuters.
Wrapping up the event, Scott Beaumont, Google Asia Pacific president, referenced the use cases of Google’s sustainability tools and features to show how “They’re powerful because they inspire others. And so, we’re going to see more and more of these things come and more and more examples and it will start gaining momentum.
“Momentum is how we can use these tools, how we can combine these tools, how we can draw on some of the machine learning and AI intelligence being developed… in our own particular cases.” Beaumont said.