With Japan's Fukushima, there is an urgent need to re-examine how technology will help address climate change. What societal, economic and other costs will we pay for our technological fixes? In the case of low-carbon energy technologies, Fukushima has radically rearranged the cost-benefit balance sheet.
Next Thursday April 21, research group GigaOm sponsors the Green:Net 2011 event in San Francisco, which will examine how information and communication technology (ICT) can better manage the causes and impacts of climate change.
Despite the environmental costs of ICT, which includes growing energy consumption and mining of dwindling precious metals, ICT is an overall net positive in the battle to mitigate carbon emissions and resource inefficiency. In other words, ICT sustainability gains outweigh ICT life-cycle production, use and disposal (eventually reuse?) costs.
Areas that will likely produce the greatest ICT sustainability improvements include topics that will be covered in depth by Green:Net presentations, panels and sessions, including:
- Smart Grids: In a new report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said that smart grids will be key to rise of clean energy, including renewables, electric vehicles and energy efficiency.
- Transportation infrastructure and logistics: This can mean getting the latest train, bus or carshare availability information on your handheld, as well as congestion and parking pricing for industries, businesses and residents.
- Crowdsourcing: I love the story of how Delhi, India is using Facebook to have people report traffic jams, blockages and illegal parking or traffic situations.
- Smart buildings: Distributed energy control, analytics and energy efficiency systems for offices, commercial buildings, homes and appliances will reduce energy use in the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitting segment--buildings.
- Smart cities: As urban populations and cities expand worldwide, there are growing needs to use ICT for planning, management, analytics and citizen participation. In New Songdo City, South Korea, which I visited in 2009, ICT is being designed to provide this new city with a unified management system allowing more efficient energy use, lower carbon transportation, and more efficient businesses and residential services.
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current. He is a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, strategic adviser to the Institute for Strategic Resilience and co-author of a forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and management.