A recent research study out of Cornell University claims the metaverse has the potential to help curb global warming. The metaverse could reportedly reduce the global surface temperature by .02 degrees by the end of the century, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 10 gigatons.
According to a recent release from Cornell, the metaverse, a 3D convergence of the physical and digital world, has the potential to “transform almost every facet of human life.” And this doesn’t stop at distance learning and gaming. The study claims that the metaverse can greatly contribute to reducing business travel, a major carbon emitter. Further, it can help reduce transportation and commercial energy usage, transforming energy distribution.
The paper, titled “Growing Metaverse Sector Can Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 10 Gt CO2e in the United States by 2050,” was published in Energy and Environmental Science. The lead author is doctoral student Ning Zhao, and both Meta, formerly Facebook, and Microsoft contributed to the study along with the National Science Foundation.
AI and Previous Technology Trajectories Predict Metaverse’s Environmental Benefits
The team used AI to analyze data from the technology, energy, environment, and business sectors in order to predict the growth of metaverse usage, specifically in remote work, virtual traveling, distance learning, gaming, and non-fungible tokens.
By comparing the growth rate of previous technologies, like television, the internet, and the iPhone, they were able to infer how quickly metaverse adoption may occur. By 2050, the metaverse industry has the apparent potential to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide by four parts per million, decrease effective radiative forcing by .035 watts per square meter, and massively lower domestic energy consumption, according to the research.
“We try to understand, from the energy and climate perspectives, how this particular technology will be helpful,” said Fengqi You, the paper’s senior author. “We’re basically trying to predict the future, so we have to use a very rigorous systems analytics approach to understand all the statistical significance, all the possible pathways, and decipher all the data and information that is out there to find out the impacts in energy, in climate, in environment and also in economics and technology.”
While the metaverse would not be an all-encompassing environmental solution, it would help towards achieving net-zero emissions targets and allow for more flexible pathways toward decarbonization.