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 Friday, November 23, 2007

A new report from ITU-T shows how Information and communications technologies (ICTs) contribute to global warming, but also how they can be used to monitor climate change, to mitigate its effects, to improve energy efficiency and to reduce carbon emissions in other sectors of the economy. The report -- ICTs and Climate Change -- is the third in the new series of Technology Watch Briefing Reports, launched by ITU-T in October 2007. It has been submitted to TSAG for further discussion at its upcoming meeting, 3-7 December. It is planned that an ITU symposium on this topic will be held in 2008.

Since 1970, the production of greenhouse gases has risen by more than 70 per cent, and this is having a global effect in warming the planet, causing changing weather patterns, rising sea-levels, desertification, shrinking ice cover and other worrying long-term effects. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) foresees a further rise in average global temperatures of between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees centigrade by 2030. Climate change is a concern for all of humanity and requires efforts on the part of all sectors of society, including the ICT sector. Although ICTs contribute only an estimated 2.5 per cent of total greenhouse gases, this share is set to grow as usage of ICTs expands globally, growing at a faster rate than the general economy.

ICTs are thus part of the cause of global warming, but they can also be part of the solution, for instance through the promotion of carbon displacement technologies. ICTs are also vital in monitoring the spread of global warming. One specific contribution ICTs can make is through the substitution of travel by electronic forms of communication, such as telephone calls, email or video-conferencing, all of which benefit from ITU-Ts standardization work. In particular, high-performance video-conferencing, or telepresence (the topic of the second Technology Watch Briefing Report), can give the impression of 'being there, without going there'. Furthermore, ITU-T itself is also contributing to a greener future through its decision to make ITU-T Recommendations freely available online. In the mid 1990s, more than one million publications were printed by ITU but, with free Recommendations now available in electronic form, this has been cut to just a few thousand that are still printed, and carbon emissions from transport of printed copies and CD-ROMs has been greatly reduced.