Jul 31, 2019 Corporate blog

Can technology save us from climate change?

Communications team
Communications team
Technology is closely integrated into everything we do, be it production, social interaction, or the way we shop and consume. In the third episode of Metso’s Finnish-language podcast series Studio Planet, Perttu Pölönen, a futurist and an innovator, and Jani Puroranta, Metso’s Chief Digital Officer, discuss what technology has achieved and whether technology can save us from climate warming.
Podcast host Riku Rantala with Perttu Pölönen, a futurist and an innovator, and Jani Puroranta, Metso’s Chief Digital Officer.
Podcast host Riku Rantala with Perttu Pölönen, a futurist and an innovator, and Jani Puroranta, Metso’s Chief Digital Officer.

Pray tell, will technology save us?

“It might. However, we also need to change our behavior, which is not so easy. Technology also changes the way people behave, though. For example, nobody carried their mobile phones during their morning jogs twenty years ago, but now we cannot live without them,” Puroranta says.

“Technology will help us, but it will not necessarily save us. We also need to change our behavior. As long as we keep putting the blame on somebody or something else, it’s sanctimonious to think that we could change everything from the outside. It all starts with people. Sure, we need technology, but it’s not the whole story,” Pölönen says.

What has Metso done in terms of technology that will help us to prevent climate change?

“Mining – our largest industrial customer segment – is highly energy intensive. It consumes up to four per cent of all the energy consumed in the world. Metso is developing future technology that can improve efficiency of the mining process by up to ten per cent by introducing, for example, new digital opportunities, optimizing processes, and improving the utilization rate. If we can make the crushing and grinding process ten per cent more efficient, we can shut down 24 coal-fired power plants right away – merely by improving the technology,” Puroranta explains.

Perttu, as an inventor and a futurist, what do you expect the next digital leap to be like in Finland or in the rest of the world?

“The first leap, which also included the industrial revolution, was from muscles to the brain. Now we are living in the age of information. We have honed a variety of processes through intellect, but meanwhile we have forgotten that resources are finite. The next leap that must be taken is from the brains to the heart: we must start thinking about the centralization of our resources. We have to think about what we humans can offer that machines and technology cannot. Economy feels no empathy,” Pölönen says.

In which fields can we improve?

“A country the size of Finland cannot be the best in everything. Sometimes being a close second and quickly introducing something someone else has invented is enough. For example, we use IoT in the remote monitoring of equipment, not as the first company in the world, but as the leading one in our industry,” Puroranta says.

“There are plenty of examples of things that have already been invented. For example, e-pass type of electronic services for citizens that have been introduced in Estonia could be quickly introduced here in Finland, too,” Pölönen says.

“We have plenty of good examples from industrial applications, such as biodiesel and biomaterials to replace plastic. Finland is developing the world’s leading technologies in these fields,” Puroranta points out.

What kind of technological innovations and changes that could help us tackle climate change are you expecting in the next few years?

“There are plenty of opportunities among technologies that are currently being developed. For example, fusion energy may resolve our energy problem once and for all in the next five to ten years. And there are plenty of other options – we just don’t know yet which ones of them will start to grow. The technologies that are going to save us are definitely already being developed in a laboratory somewhere, which offers plenty of faith for the future,” Puroranta says.

“I’m most interested in new technologies than new versions of old ones. I’d bet my money on digital biology, but quantum computers and block chains are also technologies which I believe to have plenty of potential,” Pölönen says.

In your opinion, how should we talk about the development of technology and new innovations to make sure that people are well informed of what is going on around the world?

“By using examples. In a way that highlights the victories and benefits achieved in the different fields. For example, solar energy is no longer a niche phenomenon: we are already winning in this field,” Puroranta says.

What kind of a planet would you like to leave for the future generations and how can we achieve this?

“A safe and clean planet with a rich diversity of flora and fauna. To achieve this, we need regulation and taxation that will make polluting unprofitable, we have to create a positive atmosphere where people talk about more about action than non-action, and we have to make the latest innovations available to everyone and encourage people to use them,” Puroranta lists.

“Life is the only resource that must be cherished, because it cannot be found anywhere else. We must leave behind a planet where life is more important than machines,” Pölönen says.

Produced by Metso, Studio Planet is a five-part podcast series on sustainable society where Finnish experts and influencers discuss topical issues. The series aims to contribute to the discussion with consumers on how industry can be involved in sustainable development. Listen to the podcasts hosted by Riku Rantala in Finnish: www.metso.com/studioplanet

Read the full series:

Climate anxiety can be alleviated by becoming part of the solution

Is mining in space realistic and are asteroids a threat or a crock of gold for the world?

Climate change and consumption habits - what should we give up?

Can technology save us from climate change?

The circular economy is an opportunity for brave businesses