ICT at the forefront in the fight against climate change

December 16 2016

ICT at the forefront in the fight against climate change

Posted by l.baracchi

As global climate change is threatening the future of Planet Earth, scientists, researchers, industry and humanity as a whole are called to join forces in what is probably the toughest challenge ever.  A drastic change of perspectives is needed: it is now evident that technological -but also behavioural, economic and political innovation is the one and only key to guarantee a sustainable future for the coming generations.

ICT plays a crucial role, being the backbone of most forms of innovation it has already allowed huge changes to take place enabling drastic reductions of CO2 emissions. However ICT itself is no silver bullet: its own environmental impact due to the required electricity, cooling systems and e-waste disposal cannot be ignored. Remarkably almost 10% of all energy used and 4% of carbon emissions in the environment are calculated as coming from ICT only. Research in this field is not lagging behind and many methodologies are being developed reducing the CO2 emissions from ICT. This is where ICTFOOTPRINT.eu comes into play: ICTFOOTPRINT.eu is the European framework initiative for energy & environmental efficiency in the ICT sector. Its goal is to support organisations, in particular SMEs, in reducing their carbon footprint and becoming more energy efficient, and thus more competitive, promoting the adoption of carbon footprint methodologies in the ICT sector.

As Houlin Zhao (Secretary General of ITU – the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies) pointed out at COP22 last November it is clear that ICT can play a transformative role in securing a sustainable and energy efficient future, and will be at the forefront in the fight against climate change.

Researchers need to gather, access, correlate and process enormous amounts of heterogeneous data to study the climate change in a joint multidisciplinary effort. ICT provides the means for monitoring, modelling and analysing all this data. A further step in the application of innovative ICT systems allows optimising energy consumption, improving productivity and reducing the overall levels of CO2 emissions.  

Public and private organisations, scientists and policy makers must all synergise for achieving the ICT advances for facing the climate change threats. As a standardisation body, for instance, ITU plays a central role for enabling the interoperability needed for multidisciplinary research on climate change and the interconnection at the basis of future Smart Sustainable Cities.

ITU’s mission is to connect all people – wherever they live and whatever their means, protecting and supporting everyone's fundamental right to communicate. Indeed a new study by UNHCR and Accenture states that mobile phones and internet access are as critical to refugees’ safety and security as food, shelter and water.

Thanks to the lowered costs for development, production and infrastructure, the democratisation of ICT is spreading fast and the list of mobile applications developed for improving resilience to the global warming crisis is growing. Houlin Zhao’s commitment to harnessing technology to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries is, hopefully, becoming a reality.

Water supply in Benin is now being managed through a smart software application. In Cuba, thanks to a new early warning system locals are forewarned when a cyclone is arriving. In rural Nepal mobile phones are being used for reducing the adversities of climate change, and also in the Northern part of Ghana, characterized by chronic poverty, food insecurity, environmental degradation and vulnerability to climate change, web-managed applications and mobile phones help farming families beat climate change.

ICT is the powerful means that enables the implementation of innovative ideas. In some cases a relatively low economic investment is needed, however considerable behavioural and cultural changes are required. Education plays a fundamental role as many simple but revolutionary solutions rely on text messaging and with some 775 million adults lacking minimum literacy skills, illiteracy is a “cultural infrastructure issue” that needs to be urgently addressed.

In many ways, as we have seen, ICT is a key player in the current fight against climate change, increasing human resilience to disasters, and reducing CO2 emissions by improving energy efficiency. Reducing ICT’s own carbon footprint is just taking this positive process one step further.

Join the ICTFOOTPRINT.eu community and follow our webinars to find out more!

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ICT at the forefront in the fight against climate change | ICTFOOTPRINT.eu


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