2.1.1 ICT's two-fold role to Climate Change
Nowadays, there are few things in our lives that are not created, controlled, or popularized by information and communication technology (ICT). It shapes our future, and yet threatens it. According to ITU (International Telecommunication Union), ICT is estimated to contribute around 2-2.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These percentages are likely to grow as ICT become more widely available. While being part of the problem, ICT is also a major linchpin in efforts to fight climate change and serve as a potent, cross-cutting tool to limit and ultimately reduce GHG emissions and save energy across economic and social sectors, in particular by the introduction and development of more energy efficient devices, applications and networks, as well as their environmentally sound disposal. Hence, ICT is part of the problem as well as part of the solution to climate change.
As part of the problem:
- Internet - 5.3% of world's energy consumption
- Contributes around 2-2.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
As part of the solution:
- Data analysis & climate modeling
- Emergency services & disaster relief
- Travel substitution
- Smart Work Centres
- Transport management systems
- Sensor networks and process control (e.g. switching off unnecessary devices and production on-demand.)
2.1.2 Role of ICT in reducing GHG emissions
In 2007, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) made a statement at the UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia, demonstrating the role played by ICT as both a cause and a potential solution for climate change.
1)ICT's influence by enabling energy efficiencies in other sectors
In a pre-emptive strike, the GeSI has joined the Climate Group, to examine how ICT affect climate change. Their report The SMART 2020: Enabling the Low Carbon Economy in the Information Age, indicated that ICT is potentially at the forefront of reducing GHG emissions. The report also pointed out that, while the sector plans to significantly step up the energy efficiency of its products and services, ICT's largest influence will be by enabling energy efficiencies in other sectors, an opportunity that could deliver carbon savings five times larger than the total emissions from the entire ICT sector in 2020.
According to the report, the ICT sector has a powerful role to play in tackling climate change by enabling other sectors, such as transport, buildings, power and industry, to become more efficient. To realize this opportunity will require a radical transformation of current infrastructure. This report found that ICT could reduce global carbon emissions by 7.8 GtCO2e by 2020 (from an assumed total of 51.9 GtCO2e if we remain on a BAU trajectory), an amount five times larger than its own GHG emissions footprint. Savings from avoided electricity and fuel consumption would reach ¤600 billion ($946.5 billion). The report also looked at five major opportunities for reducing emissions - dematerialization, smart motor systems, smart logistics, smart buildings and smart grids. These opportunities were chosen based on the potential for ICT to drive emissions reductions in key regions around the world where the best data were available.