The Internet of Things, 3D printing, 5G networks, and other 4IR innovations have the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions and resource usage across industrial and agricultural production cycles – from manufacturing, to shipment, to packaging, to reuse. At the same time, by using 4IR technologies, it is the only way to provide what is needed for sustainable growth for each and everyone on the planet in an equitable way.
Furthermore, 4IR networks, sensors, and autonomous devices can yield unprecedented levels of insight into how climate change is manifesting itself in locations around the world – and how we can most effectively mitigate its effects and adapt to its consequences.
The bottom line: in the fight against man-made climate change, 4IR could make a meaningful difference – and it can't come soon enough.
If we are to ensure a more sustainable and equitable future, we must take serious and concerted action. The exciting technologies of 4IR can by no means be considered a sole solution to a problem this massive and complex.
In fact, those of us who are introducing these innovations into the world must do all we can to ensure that they don't actually worsen the problems of resource overuse and carbon emissions. I think our sector is capable of this – and of much more.
If we and our partners throughout industry, government, and academia can collaborate imaginatively on ways to maximize the sustainability benefits of these emergent technologies from the very start, the next few crucial decades could see cascading gains in momentum against both materials wastage and emissions.
This raises a truly thrilling possibility: that the grave environmental harms set in motion by earlier industrial revolutions could be reversed – at least partially – by another industrial revolution, the first in history to set sustainability as an objective from its very outset.
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