This year we’ve seen climate emergencies declared locally by 265 different local authorities across the UK.

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SwissCognitiveAnd the alarm has been raised at the supranational level too, with the EU Parliament declaring a global climate emergency.

At the same time, blazing bush fires in Australia, toxic levels of air pollution in India and severe flooding here in the UK have dominated news headlines – demonstrating the dangers climate change is already creating.

With concern rising about the impact of climate change, we need to find ways of tackling its causes and mitigating its effects. Here, data has a crucial role to play.

Whether it’s information on how the world’s climate has changed over time or key sources of carbon emissions, the data we collect holds crucial insight.

This insight is already shaping our responses to climate change and will become even more important in 2020.

Driving sustainability through data

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Earlier this year, Google launched its Environmental Insight Explorer (EIE). A free online tool that uses mapping data to estimate the carbon emissions of buildings and transport in cities across the globe.

Its purpose is to allow urban planners to recognise key sources of pollution and reduce emissions by planning cities more sustainably.

Tackling carbon emissions generated by the environment is crucial to combating climate change – so this is a significant development.

Buildings and construction are responsible for 39 per cent of carbon emissions worldwide and 28 per cent of those emissions resulting from the energy used to heat, cool and light buildings (World Green Building Council, Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront 2019).

And the EIE initiative puts data centre stage in trying to address the sustainability of our towns and cities.

This is not the first time Google has used data to highlight carbon emissions that comes from the built environment.

In fact, it has already used data to create models to improve the sustainability of its data storage centres themselves – significantly reducing its carbon footprint.

Google used its data to challenge the perceived wisdom that data storage facilities needed to be cooled to 18 degrees to operate properly – with higher temperatures leading to poor performance.

By using real-time data analysis to measure the performance of its data centres Google found this was not true.

Its analysis found that’s its data centres could operate in temperatures up to 27 degrees without any reduction in performance. The energy required to cool the centres was completely redundant.

At St Vincent’ Hospital in Australia, installing a data-led predictive model within the building’s HVAC system has led to a 20 per cent reduction in energy consumption.

Here, software is used to monitor data points including the weather conditions, building occupancy, energy prices and tariffs in real time. […]


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