Recently, I read an excellent book about modelling the climate. For me, the powerful message was not that climate change is happening but that we cannot predict how it will affect future generations.

No matter how much classical computational power is available, you cannot make accurate predictions about the future of our planet. So, the most sensible course of action is to focus on reducing emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change.

This links to the main reason why I (together with many others) want to make quantum computing a reality, sooner. Quantum computers have the power to simulate the atomic (quantum) processes that happen in nature and tackle many of the causes associated with climate change.

The knowledge that we can gather from these simulations is key, for example, to build better batteries. Better batteries are the gateway to improved energy storage facilities, better electric cars and the electrification of commercial aircraft. And battery development is just one example. Quantum computers could also be used to support the design of new key technologies, like jet-engines, by augmenting our existing HPC capabilities.

There are many climate-related use cases that quantum computers could unlock. Individually, each of these may help reduce our equivalent CO2 emissions. If you add all the potential use cases together, the reduction will be more noticeable. But we need to move fast because the effects of climate change are happening now, and we still do not understand the implications for our future.

“Move fast” for me means to ensure the first generation of HPC integrated quantum computers are capable of efficiently simulating quantum processes. The word efficient is key: we want to compute faster and with a lower energy footprint than a classical computer.

It is interesting to see how both speed and energy consumption are related to one key aspect of quantum computations: how we perform quantum error correction.

The building blocks of every quantum computer, the qubits, are affected by errors to an extent that they are not usable to perform any valuable computation (assuming those qubits are left to their own devices).

These errors can be corrected by adding redundancy to the process and by “grouping qubits together” (i.e. mapping many physical qubits into one “logical” qubit).