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by Joseph Anderson
04 November 2021
Space tech used to combat climate change in Scotland

Front row: Gillian Docherty OBE, Phillipa Vigano, Dr Scott Steedman, and in virtual attendance: Peter Clutton-Brock and Jeremy Darot

Space tech used to combat climate change in Scotland

Space technology and machine learning is being used to map Scotland’s natural habitats and help fight climate change.

On day two of Holyrood magazine’s COP26 Fringe Festival, a panel of experts discussed how artificial intelligence (AI) can help tackle the climate emergency.

Chaired by The Data Lab’s Gillian Docherty OBE, the panel comprised NatureScot’s Phillipa Vigano; Centre for AI and Climate’s Peter Clutton-Brock; BSI’s Dr Scott Steedman; and Jeremy Darot from the Scottish Government.

In response to a question from an audience member, who asked how NatureScot is using new technology to fight climate change, Vigano said: “We’re experts in what the problems are, but we’re not experts in the technological solutions, so collaboration across sectors with tech innovators is so important to improving our work.

“Using AI to increase mapping across Scotland helps us to analyse our natural capital. Natural capital has been undervalued in the past, so being able to properly interrogate land use is key to identifying opportunities for habitat restoration.”

As an example, Vigano said the mapping, used in collaboration with space and AI companies, will allow NatureScot to monitor the health of peat bogs by monitoring the height of the land over time – indicating how much water and carbon the peat bogs are absorbing.

The panel also heard how trust will be a key factor in implementing AI technology for data processing in the future.

Darot told the audience: “Trust is something that needs to be earned. From the government’s perspective we see this as the foundation of making AI a success.

“Standards have a role to play in that - and as a government we're trying to lead by example.”

Dr Steedman added: “We need technology to save the planet, but we mustn’t blindly trust the technology - creators need to build trust with the consumer through transparency and communication.”

Read the most recent article written by Joseph Anderson - Monica Lennon resigns from Scottish Labour front bench

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