Future Tech

How to solve climate change with your PC

0 Comments 22 December 2010

How to solve climate change with your PC

For a long time I was depressed and guilt-ridden by the thought that mankind was responsible for global warming and that we had set in motion an unstoppable chain of events that would result in Armageddon: rising sea levels, one half of the world covered in desert and a permanent downpour in the other half.

Over the past year, however, I’ve changed my mind. I’ve done a complete 360.

In fact I am rather optimistic about the future, at least with regard to global warming.  Whether you believe we are responsible for it or not, I am comforted by the realisation that we humans are finally doing what we do best:

Solving problems using technology.

Here’s an example. Subscribe to weatherathome.net and your home computer, along with millions of others, can become part of a climate change experiment. The aim: to understand whether extreme weather events will be become more or less common as the world gets warmer.

The initiative, which launched last month, runs a series of climate prediction experiments on volunteers’ computers. To participate in weatherathome.net, you download software from the project’s website. The software simulates detailed weather events in a specific part of the world, and sends the results to scientists specialising in the climates of those regions for analysis. For example, results for the European region will be sent to Oxford University and the Met Office.

The idea of using millions of PCs to calculate complex problems has been around for years. If you have a PC and an internet connection, you can lend your processing power when your machine is idle to run complex calculations.  The boffins are effectively creating super computers on the fly. Ingenious, hey? And it’s green. They are essentially using recycled processor time on PCs rather than building some humungous supercomputer, slinging it in a vast warehouse and having to cool it with air conditioning.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?

Technology got us to this point. Think burning wood. Coal-fired anything. The internal combustion engine. Jet propulsion. Oil production. These are the engines of global warming – and yet technology will get us past it.  I am confident that we will invent and adapt ourselves out of the impending mess. Why? Because that’s what human beings we do. We evolve. We adapt. We change to suit our environment.

So it seems especially fitting that weatherathome.net is a collaboration of millions of CO2 chuggers (me included) lending their spare processor power to solve these sorts of problems. It’s brilliant. You can lend your computer to help someone else work out how our polluting lifestyles are going to change the weather. And maybe even start to solve some of the issues. After all, the computer is pumping out CO2 along with all our other CO2 chugging gadgets.

Is that too cynical a conclusion? The reality is that in first world countries, every aspect of our lives creates pollution. Work. Play. Leisure. Holiday. Everything. Recycling a few tin cans will not change much except perhaps appease our guilty consciences.

My PC won’t solve global warming all on its own, but it might help, along with millions of other computers and contributions. Give it a try. It requires no effort on your part and doesn’t require you to change a thing.

(As readers of The Human Race will know, there is another neat gadget that could solve global warming overnight… but that’s another story!)

Image credit: sduck409.

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Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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The BeachThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeLife of PiOuter DarkThe FirmAlexander 3: The Ends of the Earth: A Novel

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