The Untapped Potential of Computing and Cognition in Tackling Climate Change

Article by Adiba Proma, Robert Wachter and Ehsan Hoque: “Alongside the search for climate-protecting technologies like EVs, more effort needs to be directed to harnessing technology to promote climate-protecting behavior change. This will take focus, leadership, and cooperation among technologists, investors, business executives, educators, and governments. Unfortunately, such focus, leadership, and cooperation have been lacking.  

Persuading people to change their lifestyles to benefit the next generations is a significant challenge. We argue that simple changes in how technologies are built and deployed can significantly lower society’s carbon footprint. 

While it is challenging to influence human behavior, there are opportunities to offer nudges and just-in-time interventions by tweaking certain aspects of technology. For example, the “Climate Pledge Friendly” tag added to products that meet Amazon’s sustainability standards can help users identify and purchase ecofriendly products while shopping online [3]. Similarly, to help users make more ecofriendly choices while traveling, Google Flights provides information on average carbon dioxide emission for flights and Google Maps tags the “most fuel-efficient” route for vehicles. 

Computer scientists can draw on concepts from psychology, moral dilemma, and human cooperation to build technologies that can encourage people to lead ecofriendly lifestyles. Many mobile health applications have been developed to motivate people to exercise, eat a healthy diet, sleep better, and manage chronic diseases. Some apps designed to improve sleep, mental wellbeing, and calorie intake have as many as 200 million active users. The use of apps and other internet tools can be adapted to promote lifestyle changes for climate change. For example, Google Nest rewards users with a “leaf” when they meet an energy goal…(More)”.