No, Mark Zuckerberg, virtual reality will not solve the climate crisis


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Photo: Hannah McKay-Pool (fake images)

Billionaires are one time again affirming that technology will save us. In a interview Posted Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that by the end of this decade, he hopes we will all have access to virtual reality glasses that let us feel like we are teleporting to other people’s houses and hanging out. That, in turn, could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from travel.

“Obviously, there are still going to be cars and planes and all that. But the more we can teleport, not only do we personally eliminate commuting and things that are kind of a drag on us individually, but I think that’s better for society and for the planet in general, too, ”Zuckerberg told Information.

Worldwide, the transit sector is one of the larger contributors to the climate crisis, and in the US, pollution from the transit sector is the more participation of US greenhouse gas emissions There is no question that this must change.

But will virtual reality glasses help us reduce carbon emissions? Maybe. Studies on the greenhouse gas production of virtual reality technology are limited, but it is true that the carbon emissions associated with an individual call on possible Zuckerberg smart glasses could be lower than those associated with a trip in plane across the country, for example. However, at this time we do not have enough information to know for sure.

“The videoconference already [reduces travel-related carbon emissions] up to a point, but I don’t think anyone can say in advance if VR will be cool enough to get people to give up on leisure travel. If it replaces business trips and meetings, it will be a clear positive, ”Jonathan Koomey, an energy and climate researcher who runs a sustainable IT consultancy, wrote in an email, adding that“ there are so many unknowns about this that it is difficult say something definitive. “

Virtual reality is also not a substitute for in-person jobs that require face-to-face work and interactions, from construction to food service. The millions of people employed in that industry will continue to travel. So to make a dent in business travel, virtual reality technology would have to be widely used in other sectors. And when it comes to traveling for fun, Koomey doesn’t think she has much of a chance.

“I doubt that people choose to use virtual reality instead of going on a tropical vacation,” he said.

Of course, not everyone goes on a tropical vacation. In fact, a recent study found that only 11% of people worldwide traveled by plane, and no more than 4% of the world’s population took international flights. But the global elite, the study found, are flying without abandon. Just 1% of the world’s population was responsible for half of the world’s commercial flight emissions that year..

If flying by plane is bad, taking private planes is much worse. A single PJ flight across the country can produce almost double the entire annual greenhouse gas production of the average American. However, Facebook covered narrowly $ 3 million in private jet costs for Zuckerberg in 2019, based on federal disclosures. Besides flying for business, Zuckerberg also has a $ 100 million mansion in Hawaii. It’s hard to imagine him giving up travel there stay at home with the virtual reality viewer.

However, in a sense, that’s not entirely Zuckerberg’s fault. We cannot expect people with their extreme wealth level to simply act in good faith and make personal decisions that are best for our collective future on Earth! In other words, we cannot simply depend on people choosing to buy new and sophisticated technologies to solve the climate crisis. The world’s leading climate scientists say we need high levels of government regulation to clamp down on the contamination of aviation, cruise ships, cars, and other polluting sectors.

Zuckerberg, however, has remained staunchly anti-regulation. But then of course you have to, your job is to make money on Facebook. Making VR glasses the next big thing could be great for Zuckerberg’s quest to enrich himself and Facebook. of the company participation in technology. And marking the glasses as green might help you do that.

However, in all other ways, there is little evidence that virtual reality glasses actually do that much. So if Mark Zuckerberg really cares about cutting planet-warming emissions, maybe he could Start with a more robust solution to combat climate denial, eliminating avenues for deniers to announce lies, and in general do not finance them or your events First of all.

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