Open-source data is the future of the climate movement, this nonprofit leader says: 'We need to have the numbers'
- Tim Paradis, senior editor at Insider, spoke with Amali de Alwis of Subak about the climate crisis.
- Subak is a tech accelerator for climate not-for-profits and a hub for open-source science data.
- The event was part of Insider's series Climate Heroes 2022: Working Toward Solutions.
Many of the toughest climate challenges like reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuels or cutting waste can feel overwhelming. How does society begin to wean itself off of oil and gas? How can we stop reckless but common corporate practices?
For Amali de Alwis, CEO of Subak, a tech accelerator focused on climate not-for-profits, it's all about breaking big problems into smaller ones that can be tackled using data.
"It really comes down to saying, 'Look, we know that we have this gigantic problem that we need to solve. We need to be able to look at what the picture is now, what the picture is after, and we need to be able to have numbers to really make those arguments,'" de Alwis said during an Insider event moderated by Tim Paradis, senior editor for the future of business.
The event was part of Insider's series Climate Heroes 2022: Working Toward Solutions. The series profiled leaders who are working to address the climate crisis.
Subak supports more than 15 startups working to tackle different parts of the climate crisis. Founded in 2021 by Baroness Worthington, lead author of the UK's 2008 Climate Change Act, Subak collects and shares open-source data sets, which are available to the public.
Subak is home to more than 2,700 data sets with information on topics ranging from electricity energy use to water safety. The goal is to encourage businesses, governments, and even entrepreneurs to come up with climate solutions using this information.
"It's really critical that we just make that accessibility open and actually support people to solve those problems," de Alwis said.
In addition to helping different stakeholders devise climate crisis solutions, data can help sway companies or organizations to make changes in how they operate.
"It sends a really strong message to government and to private companies around where our appetites for spend are, and also what's our tolerance for in some cases spending more because something is green versus something which is just a cheaper cost and a cheaper offer, but it might be more polluting or it might be more carbon intensive," de Alwis said.
Ember, one of the first nonprofits in Subak's accelerator program, influenced the UK government's ban on gas boilers in new homes by 2025, according to de Alwis. Another one of the organizations Subak works with, called SOR, created the Sucoil Sponge, which can remove oil from land and water and can be reused.
"We really are just very bullish around the impact that we're already having," de Alwis said.
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