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The Metaverse Could Help Lower Global Temperatures

A Cornell University research team predicts metaverse adoption might reduce greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide concentration and radiative forcing

Cornell Tech campus buildings. Image source: Cornell.edu

The metaverse, a virtual 3D environment that could change the way we work, interact, shop and play video games, holds immense promise for numerous technology enthusiasts.

New research from Cornell University has shown that the metaverse could have environmental benefits by lowering the global surface temperature by 0.02 degrees Celsius before the end of the century. The paper titled Growing Metaverse Sector Can Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 10 Gt CO2e in the United States by 2050, was published on June 14th by lead author Ning Zhao, a doctoral student.

Metaverse’s climate potential

Fengqi You, the Roxanne E. and Michael J. Zak professor in energy systems engineering at Cornell Engineering and the paper’s senior author said, “We try to understand, from the energy and climate perspectives, how this particular technology will be helpful.

“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.”

Using AI-based modelling, the team examined data from key sectors including technology, energy, environment, and business. Their analysis aimed to project the expansion of metaverse utilisation and assess the potential impact of its most promising applications, such as remote work, virtual travel, distance learning, gaming, and NFTs.

The researchers also utilised three different trajectories – slow, nominal, and fast – to project the expansion of the metaverse until 2050. To gain insights into the pace of adoption, they drew comparisons with previous technologies such as television, the internet, and the iPhone.

A growing metaverse adoption

In addition, the researchers took into account the energy consumption associated with the increasing usage of the metaverse. According to the modelling results, it is projected that within three decades, more than 90% of the population would adopt the metaverse.

“One thing that did surprise us is that this metaverse is going to grow much quicker than what we expected,” You said. “Look at earlier technologies – TV, for instance. It took decades to be eventually adopted by everyone. Now we are really in an age of technology explosion. Think of our smartphones. They grew very fast.”

Some of the biggest companies and platforms driving the development of the metaverse include Meta, Roblox, Decentraland, Somnium Space, NVIDIA’s Omniverse, and Microsoft.

The paper notes that come 2050, the metaverse industry has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 gigatons, decrease carbon dioxide concentration by 4.0 parts per million, lower radiative forcing by 0.035 watts per square meter, and reduce total domestic energy consumption by 92 EJ. This reduction exceeds the annual energy consumption of all end-use sectors in previous years.

These findings could help policymakers understand the growth of the metaverse industry and expedite progress towards achieving net-zero emissions goals. Additionally, it highlights the potential for fostering more adaptable decarbonisation strategies.

Written By

Isa Muhammad is a writer and video game journalist covering many aspects of entertainment media including the film industry. He's steadily writing his way to the sharp end of journalism and enjoys staying informed. If he's not reading, playing video games or catching up on his favourite TV series, then he's probably writing about them.

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