The Glasgow Climate Pact concluded at the end of the COP26 Climate Change Conference on November 13 brought countries to a historic agreement on several measures to combat global warming. Chief among these was agreement on the goal of keeping global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.
Naomi Inoue, head of the Japanese pavilion at COP26 in Tokyo, said of the Japanese climate change technologies on display in Glasgow: “We want to show off technologies that Japan can be proud of.”
In two parts, JAPAN Striker looks at some of the emerging technologies Japan is developing to help achieve this and other COP goals.
In part one of this series, we showcased some of the hydrogen and other renewable energy technologies that Japanese companies are making available both in the transition and to achieve long-term net-zero carbon emissions. here 2050. Here we turn to another kind of technology that Japan showcased in Glasgow: the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Hitachi’s Macro AI approach to problem solving
Many of us have wondered: What if AI could help solve the world’s big social questions? Turns out some people in Japan are trying to find out.
In 2017, Hitachi partnered with Kyoto University to use artificial intelligence to analyze more than 20,000 scenarios for a prosperous and sustainable society in Japan in 20 or 30 years.
The program considered societal issues, such as declining birth rates, and tried to find policies that would benefit people decades from now. The results resulted in a set of recommendations, which were submitted to local governments.
Nagano Prefecture in particular was one of 10 localities that said they would actively consider proposals using AI in the future. He even created simulations for the introduction of the Maglev Shinkansen to the region.
There are many possible applications, such as in the fields of medicine and education, to name but two.
Kazuhiro Ikegaya, Chief Environmental Project Designer, Hitachi Certified Design Thinking Initiative, shared with JAPAN Striker that their goal is now to focus on environmental solutions in the field of energy, electric vehicles, etc. In fact, Hitachi was an official partner of COP26.
Ikegaya explained the rationale for the project: “Decision-makers might have problems getting consensus. We want to facilitate the discussion of future environmental measures between stakeholders by providing simulation results.
Explaining why companies should trust Hitachi with this type of technology, he added, “I think Hitachi’s strength is combining AI with complex computing technology that we grow from the infrastructure industry. For example, we provide systems for weather forecasting in Japan. »
Ikegaya reflected that, back in 2017when the AI’s recommendations were shared with policy makers, the main recommendation was to disburse population centers away from major cities in order to achieve a revitalized and sustainable future for Japan.
Ikegaya reflected on the advisability of forecasting in the context of people moving away from major metropolises during the pandemic: “Some kind of AI predicts what would happen in that direction!”
IHI and Sumitomo: protecting peatlands with AI
Another application of AI to bring practical help to environmental issues was presented by IHI and Sumitomo Forestry Group. The project is called Next Forest.
Most people agree that protecting forests is key to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Tropical forests and bogs are excellent carbon dioxide absorbers.
Conversely, neglect of these areas can result in large amounts of CO2 stored in the ground being released into the atmosphere.
According to the NeXT Forests website, tropical peatlands store a large amount of carbon ー equivalent to more than 10 times global emissions ー despite their proportion of the world’s land area being only 0.4%.
Also, peatlands, more than other land types, are at high risk of forest fires if they do not retain enough moisture.
NeXT Forests is a project that aims to actively protect tropical forests and peatlands. One way to do this is to use AI.
Data is collected by earth observation and weather monitoring system (sPOTEKA, developed by IHI), which is analyzed by AI.
Data on the amount of water from rain or nearby river dams is then processed, and steps are taken to ensure that the bog has a steady flow of water and does not dry out.
The one-of-a-kind system is a “high-density, remote weather station in Japan” that acts as an integrated monitoring system that uses AI to collect and analyze data and relay results to managers and decision makers. The project is currently being used in Indonesia.
Kento Tomiyama, who works at IHI and represented NeXT Forests at the Japan Pavilion at COP26, highlighted the importance of this type of technology. “Indonesia has a huge bog, and we’ve been there for more than 10 years,” he explained. “But there are peat bogs in the Congo in Africa, in Scotland, in the Amazon in Brazil. We have to extend [the use of] this technology around the world.
Within the same project, Sumitomo Forest Group has invested in satellite technology, which can monitor forests, check forest health and the amount of CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere.
Finally, the IHI employee stressed the importance of investing in companies that carry out such initiatives in order to make them economically viable.
“There are a lot of NGOs trying to do this, but they can’t because it’s a new technology. Once the NGO has used up all of its money, the project stops,” Tomiyama said. “Companies must invest and also do [their work] sustainable for the environment.
Read part 1: Carbon Zero is not a pipe dream – there is Japanese hydrogen technology
Author: Arielle Busetto