Our guest blogger is Dr. Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor at Stanford. Koomey has been a friend and colleague for nearly two decades “” and we’ve spent a lot of time debunking mis-analysis in this area (see “Debunking the myth of the internet as energy hog, again: How information technology is good for climate“).
Readers of Climate Progress have shown keen interest in how Information & Communication Technology (ICT) might affect society’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. These readers will be interested to know that the Journal of Industrial Ecology has just released a special issue on the Environmental Applications of ICT that explores various effects of these technologies on environmental issues. The entire special issue is available on the web, free of charge.
While others have investigated the direct environmental impacts of producing and operating IT equipment, this special issue focuses specifically on the effects of using IT in ways that reduce overall environmental impacts of producing a product or a service. That would include applications of ICT such as
- mapping energy use to localities across the U.S.
- continuous fine-tuned energy auditing for households
- smart irrigation controllers
- Internet-based CO2 mitigation models
- Web 2.0 technology for industrial ecology
Two articles of the special issue address the broader environmental impacts of ICT-namely, the net impacts of the ICT and Entertainment & Media sectors, as well as the impacts of various digital music delivery alternatives.
A few tidbits stand out. In our article analyzing the environmental impacts of downloading music vs. buying it on a physical CD (Weber et al.), which is summarized in more detail here, we found emissions reductions of 40 to 80% for downloads, depending on assumptions about the transport mode for the physical CD, the size of the data files and whether the user burns the downloaded music onto a physical CD.
Berges et al. focus on non-intrusive monitoring of energy use in homes, which is one clever way to learn a whole lot more about how residences use energy (I’m also excited by other developments in wireless sensor technologies, but that’s another story). And Mutchek and Williams explore the benefits of smart irrigation controls using a case study approach. They found that these controls will need to become cheaper and more effective to be worthwhile in many cases, but the authors emphasize the large potential water savings from using information technology to control irrigation.
The Journal of Industrial Ecology is an international peer-reviewed bimonthly journal owned by Yale University and published by Wiley-Blackwell. It is the official journal of the International Society for Industrial Ecology.
This freely available special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology is made possible through funding from the Leading Edge Forum of CSC, a well known IT services firm. The Leading Edge Forum is a global research and advisory program focusing on the intersection of business, IT, and management.
— Dr. Koomey, Consulting Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University at Stanford University.