Technology has emerged as the champion in the battle against climate change as scientists and engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs develop solutions from artificial intelligence and automation to alternative energy sources and electric vehicles.
Within defence, there are immense opportunities to capitalise on these emerging technologies that can vastly improve not only carbon output – a sentiment shared by Governments around the world – but efficiency, speed and accuracy. For example, introducing greater automation into manufacturing processes from aircraft carriers to soldier systems can reduce costs, material waste through reduced error margins and reduce the number of people needed to commute to premises. The net result is more streamlined, technology assisted processes that are good for the environment and good for business.
Challenge vs opportunity
There can be little doubt that addressing an issue as enormous as climate change cannot be achieved overnight and that it will be a generational challenge to make changes to how we manufacture, work, travel and move goods that must transcend all levels of domestic and commercial activity. Changes on this scale come at significant cost; not only in shaping appropriate policy but in purchasing the right equipment and implementing seismic changes in industrial culture without considerable disruption to business operations.
The benefits of technologies which aim to reduce carbon output extend much beyond environmental goods, often creating new and novel applications and capabilities that broaden defence possibilities. For example, the development of tidal, solar and wind energy alternatives may allow our armed forces to operate in environments previously not thought possible without the necessary static infrastructure. The energy sources which rely on nature are inherently more mobile and less reliant on a fixed grid network. The implications include greater ability to deploy to areas without infrastructure, such as humanitarian disaster sites.
Embracing technology which aims to reduce climate change could potentially establish critical infrastructure to support the relief effort in inhospitable environments harmed by the very extreme changes to our weather systems that this technology aims to prevent. Furthermore, such alternative power supply presents a harder target for enemies than fixed power sources.
It is impossible to ignore the human-induced changes to our environment and the mounting concern which spans all corners of industry. As every sector rises to the challenge of net-zero, defence must look horizontally to capture the emerging technologies in support of healthcare, the automotive industry and the construction and extractive sectors.