How new technologies are helping protect the world’s natural ecosystem

Published September 2, 2020 | 2 min read

Every season seems to bring with it a new weather record. From the wettest spring in one region to the driest summer in another. Such events usually make news headlines under the umbrella topic of climate change. There's now a concerted effort across the globe to use new technologies to help protect the environment and corporations are lending a financial hand.

The RBC Tech for Nature program has announced partnerships with 120 organizations around the world, with a financial commitment of CAD$9 million (£5.13 million) for this year alone. In the UK, two charitable organizations will receive up to £50,000 to pursue their research: University of Oxford and Thames21. Tech for Nature launched in November 2019 as a multi-year commitment by the RBC Foundation, designed to work with organizations to leverage technology and innovation capabilities to solve pressing environmental challenges.

 

Studying the impact of climate change

University of Oxford’s World Weather Attribution (WWA) project was one of the chosen beneficiaries of an RBC Tech for Nature grant announced in July. Its focus is part of an international effort to analyze how climate change may be impacting extreme weather. Such events include droughts, mass flooding and unusually harsh storms. The group then communicates the results to the public and policymakers across the world.

“For most people, climate change manifests through the changes in extreme weather events like heat waves and storms, with huge consequences on economies, ecosystems and human health." says Dr. Friederike Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute (ECI), University of Oxford. “The support of the Tech for Nature programme will enable us to develop more engaging ways to share the results of our extreme weather research and help us reach more communities so they can better plan and adapt in future."

Human-made climate change made Europe's 2019 record heat wave up to one hundred times more likely, according to a recent report. The note acknowledged many things influence extreme weather. Still, human-made climate change tends to increase their frequency and intensity of these events. “The July 2019 heatwave was so extreme over continental Western Europe that the observed magnitudes would have been extremely unlikely without climate change," the WWA report stated. “Heat waves during the height of summer pose a substantial risk to human health and are potentially lethal."

 

Saving the River Thames through advocacy

London-based environmental charity Thames21 also received a Tech for Nature award from the RBC Foundation. One of its central goals is advocacy for improvement in water management and providing education on the topic to a broad audience. “We inspire and influence effective and lasting change by working hand-in-hand with communities to deliver tangible and measurable improvements for urban rivers," states the organization’s website.

Water preservation is particularly pertinent for London's River Thames, which runs the risk of running dry as drinking water gets extracted. As the capital city grows, it faces the challenge of providing enough drinking water to an expanding population. That issue could be made far bigger through problems caused by human-made climate change.

The organization aims to use the donation to develop an educational program to help secondary school students understand how the water system in London operates.

“Thames21 connects people with their waterways by putting healthy rivers back at the heart of everyday life," says Chris Coode, Deputy CEO, Thames21. “This funding will enable us to pilot a framework that could help London meet its water-stress challenges, but also potentially help tackle water usage and water scarcity around the world."

Thames21 will partner with London-based schoolteachers to develop an innovative, new education program using digital visualization tools, aimed at educating students on best practices in the process of water management. The teachers and Thames21 output on this project will include a case study and other educational materials from which the students can learn more about the management of London's waterways.

 

To view an updated list of RBC Tech for Nature partners and learn more, please visit the website here.