RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin is warning that if nothing is done, rapid technological development will exacerbate rather than alleviate all environmental challenges, including climate change and resource depletion.
Addressing the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit 2019 in Yekaterinburg on Tuesday, President Putin said it was obvious today that the increasingly fast transformation was radically changing the appearance of entire regions, industries, production techniques and business models.
He detailed Russia’s approaches to resolving common fundamental, “without any exaggeration, civilisational problems,” by speaking about his country’s vision of long-term trends that determine global development and the risks that “we are already facing or may face very soon.”
According to the Kremlin, President Putin noted that systems of artificial intelligence, 3D-printing, and other developments were exerting enormous influence on the efficiency of management and labour productivity.
“It would seem here is a new industry without pipes and rubbish heaps, the post-industrial society free of environmental risks, about which the futurologists of the 20th century drowsed the days away,” he said. “However, the hopes that new technology as such will save the world from the growing anthropogenic influence and burden largely proved to be an illusion. The degradation of nature and the climate continues and is increasingly stronger manifested in droughts, crop failures and natural calamities.”
President Putin said incidentally, Russia was hit the hardest.
He said the temperature in Russia was growing 2.5 times faster than on average in other parts of the world.
President Putin cited huge fires in which hundreds of hectares of forest were burning, and horrible floods in Russia’s Irkutsk Region.
“If nothing is done, rapid technological development will exacerbate rather than alleviate all of our environmental challenges, including climate change and resource depletion,” he warned.
“According to forecasts, billions of communication devices and the rapidly growing infrastructure for storing, processing and transferring big data will consume over 30 per cent of the world’s electricity by the middle of the next decade. How can we achieve this huge amount of generating capacity?”
President Putin said there was no clear-cut answer to th equestion.
“That said, building up generating capacity and increasing energy consumption like we have been is bound to result in new risks and further climate change. Even now the energy industry accounts for a quarter of all CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. The other largest hothouse emitters are agriculture, heavy industry and transport,” he noted.
“It is not yet clear how to combine long-term development and production build-up while preserving nature and high living standards. How do we prevent the digital technological revolution, robotisation and the general move to the internet of things from ending in a deadlock without resources and with environmental damage?
We believe these issues require a detailed, meaningful discussion. However, regrettably, instead of discussing the gist of the climatic and environmental agenda we often see overt populism, false allegations and, I dare say, obscurantism.”
President Putin said as such it came down to appeals to “give up progress, which will make it possible at best to perpetuate the situation and create local wellbeing for a select few.”
“At the same time, millions of people will have to settle for what they have today or, it would be more appropriate to say what they don’t have today: access to clean water, food, education and other basics of civilisation,” he said.
“Naturally, such outdated approaches are a road to nowhere. They can only lead to new conflicts. A derivative of this approach, or one of the derivatives at any rate, is the migration crisis in Europe, and the US as well, for that matter.
Absolutist, blind faith in simple, showy but not effective solutions can lead to problems. I mean such approaches as the total rejection of nuclear or hydrocarbon energy, for example, going all in on existing alternative energy sources alone.
Will it be comfortable to live on a planet covered in fences of wind turbines and several layers of solar batteries?”
President Putin said it’s like sweeping the rubbish under the rug instead of just cleaning the house.
“Everybody knows that wind power is good, but is anyone thinking about the birds? How many birds die? They shake the ground so much that the worms crawl out. This is not a joke, really, it is a serious side effect of these modern modes of energy generation,” he said. “I am not saying it should not be developed, of course it should; but let’s not forget the related problems. Of course you can’t forbid anyone from wearing animal fur or living in caves, but it is impossible and pointless to try and stop human progress. The question is, which base can this progress realistically be built upon to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations.”
He believes to secure cleaner air, water and food, which also means a better quality of life and longevity for billions of people on the planet, “we must offer up radically new technologies and more efficient and environmentally-friendly devices.”
“Such super-efficient scientific, engineering and manufacturing solutions will help us establish a balance between the biosphere and the technosphere, as well as to minimise and better control the anthropogenic impact on nature, on the environment,” said President Putin. “This also includes so-called nature-like technologies that reproduce natural processes and systems according to the laws of nature.
It may seem strange at first, but fusion energy, which in fact is similar to how heat and light are produced in our star, in the Sun, is an example of such nature-like technologies. Potentially we can harness a colossal, inexhaustible and safe source of energy. However, we will only succeed in fusion energy and in solving other fundamental tasks if we establish broad international cooperation and interaction between government and business, and join the efforts of researchers representing different scientific schools and areas. If technological development becomes truly global, it will not be split up or reined in by attempts to monopolise progress, limit access to education and put up new obstacles to the free exchange of knowledge and ideas.”