Richard Hawkins, Canada Research Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, says there is no evidence that information technologies necessarily reduce our environmental footprint. His research will provide input into the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) initiative on IT and sustainability at the United Nations' Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark later this year.
"It was once assumed that there was little or no material dimension to information technology, thus, it should be clean with minimal environmental impact," says Hawkins who is also a professor in the U of C's Faculty of Communication and Culture. "However, we are finding that reality is much more complicated."
Firstly, Hawkins notes that digital technologies require a lot of energy to manufacture and eventually they create a huge pile of 'electronic junk', much of it highly toxic. They also use a lot of energy to run. Some estimates are that they use up roughly the same amount of energy as the world's air transport system.
Far from denying these environmental implications, Hawkins points out that many IT producers are gearing up to produce 'greener IT', using the environmental footprint as a marketing tool. "But probably most of the negative environmental impacts occur in the form of completely unintended, second and third order effects," he says. "These 'rebound' effects may not be mitigated by inventing 'greener' IT products and, indeed, may be intensified by such changes."
Rebounds occur when the use of IT contributes to or reinforces an increase in other activities that already have environmental effects.
"For example, technologies such as cell phones actually help us to become hyper-mobile," he says. "We didn't adopt the mobile phone so we could drive and talk on the phone, we adopted it because we were already driving so much. Creating a greener cell phone won't reduce the impact of increased mobility. The real question is what amount of mobility is sustainable?"
Hawkins says the problem is not that IT is inherently more or less green than other technologies. The problem is that it has been applied so extensively that its environmental implications – positive as well as negative – are often overlooked. Hawkins and his research team are establishing a more reliable basis for identifying and assessing the contribution of IT to our environmental footprint. They will present their findings at the upcoming European Communications Policy Research Conference in Seville, Spain on March 29 and at the UN's COP 15 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18, 2009.
Jennifer Myers | EurekAlert!
Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut
Species Richness – a false friend? Scientists want to improve biodiversity assessments
01.08.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences
18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences