Tracking climate change using 4G in the Alps with Orange

Dedicated to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and connecting everyone and everything to a better future, mobile operators are transforming millions of people’s lives. To tell these stories of human impact, the #CaseForChange is packed with the latest tech and travelling around the world. Launched at MWC Americas in September and culminating at Mobile World Congress 2018 in February, the journey will cross 19 countries and cover over 130,000km to capture the most powerful stories of human change, all backed by mobile.

The Case For Change is well underway – over halfway through the campaign, we’ve seen so many innovative examples of how mobile is transforming people’s lives. And my visit to Chamonix, France with Orange was no different. When we think of how mobile is having a direct impact on people, we can sometimes forget that environmental sustainability is an integral part of our day to day lives. It is perhaps of even greater importance, as it will transform the way societies and economies operate for generations to come. And every bit of research now will ultimately help experts understand what the future looks like.

That’s why we met with two researchers at the Centre de Recherches sur les Écosystèmes d’Altitude (CREA – Alpine Ecosystems Research Centre) based in the centre of Chamonix, France. Mainly known as a winter sports destination, this region also acts as a unique indicator of how climate change is impacting our environment. The temperature in the Northern Alps is increasing twice as fast as the rest of the northern hemisphere. It is also an excellent indicator of the impacts of climate change – each increase in altitude is like its own ecosystem and comes with different characteristics. But actually tracking what’s happening at different altitudes takes constant monitoring, which can be difficult in the Alps’ extreme conditions. In an effort to support this research, in 2014 the Orange Group signed a partnership with the centre to not only provide technology for their research but also enable employee volunteering. There are now 7X monitoring stations installed throughout the region. Using 4G antennas, the stations register data every 15 minutes and send the findings back to the research centre. By aggregating and analysing this data, researchers can better understand patterns and trends in environmental conditions.

Two of these researchers are Brad and Hillary. During the #CaseForChange shoot, they hosted myself and our video production and travel expert, Loris Monteux. Originally from the US, the couple are passionate mountaineers – Brad is even training to be a mountain guide and Hillary is a competitive trail runner! As we hiked up the base of the mountain to see a monitoring station, you could easily see why this pair dedicates their lives to this environment. Living and working in such a gorgeous landscape, it’s hard to imagine not wanting to preserve its beauty. The mountains were absolutely piled up with snow – but the two made it very clear: just because it’s cold, does not mean the climate isn’t warming. In fact, since the 1970s, the average annual period of snow coverage has declined by one month per year. It’s by understanding trends over long periods of time that CREA can better understand the impacts of climate change on the 44,000 species of animal and plant species in the Alps.

Back at the research centre, we had the opportunity to sit down with Hillary and Brad to understand how the data is used. Once received, the data is aggregated to reveal patterns. They explain their main goal is to put this information and research in the public domain. Ultimately, their research and findings help to influence decision makers and advocate for policy and other action to halt climate change. And even though their work focuses on this region of the Alps, their findings could help better understand other mountain ranges around the world.

Ultimately, their partnership with Orange has made their work much more efficient so they can achieve their goals of understanding and raise awareness about the Alpine ecosystem much faster. Their collective work is truly a leading example of how partnerships are invaluable to solving today’s biggest global challenges. And it is undeniable CREA’s work is making an impact on people and planet by helping to preserve this remarkable, mountainous wonder.

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