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Continental J.

Information Technology 4:27 - 30, 2010 ISSN: 2141 - 4033


© Wilolud Journals, 2010 http://www.wiloludjournal.com

IMPACT OF ICT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

E.C Arihilam and Eguzo C. V


Electrical/Electronic Engineering Department, Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, Ebonyi State, Nigeria

ABSTRACT
In spite of the clamour for the adaptation of technologies to bridge the ever growing digital
divide around the globe, information communication technology (ICT) has been identified to
assist in increasing the awareness and sensitization in mitigating the impact of climate change
and other related issues. The effects of global warming, greenhouse effects and other human
related environmental impacts, have been felt in different places, measures and formations. As
Nigeria continues to grow its information markets, this piece examines the opportunities for
emission savings in applying ICT and options that through enabling other sectors to reduce
their emission, the industry could decrease global emission. This will enable a low carbon
economy in this information age.

KEYWORDS: Chlorofluorocarbons, sensitization, e-sustainability, SMART, Proliferation,


communication.

INTRODUCTION
Climate change according to United Nations Framework convention on climate change is defined as a change of
climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global
atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (Orimisan
(2010).

The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) described global warming as the increase in the average
temperature of earth’s near-surface area and oceans. Global surface temperature increased to 0.74 + 0.180C at the
start of 20th century and climate model projections summarized in the latest IPCC report indicate that global surface
temperature is likely to rise further from 1.1 to 6.40C during the 21st century.

Research has shown that this rapid climatic change include processes as variation in solar radiation, mountain-
building, continental drift, greenhouse gas concentration, human influence an more. The human factor contribution
include high level of CO2 emission from fusil fuel combustion, land use, ozone depletion, animal agriculture and
deforestation (Climate change (2010).

ICT do contribute to global warming but more importantly they are the key to monitoring and mitigating its effects,
says the UN telecom agency’s Secretary – General, Hamadoun Toure. Since the Kyoto protocol was adopted in late
1997, the number of ICT users has tripled globally and the sector releases some 2 to 3 percent of all emission. But
international telecommunication Union, ITU, stressed that these technologies are also part of the solution to climate
change and could help curb emission by anywhere between 15 to 40 percent, depending on the methodologies used
to come up with the estimates.

MAN-MADE CAUSES OF CLIMATE CHANGE


CO2 is the chemical formula for carbon dioxide which is a chemical compound composed of two oxygen atoms
covalently bonded to a single carbon atom. Also carbon dioxide is the number one reason for man-made climate
change. Known as a colourless gas, consisting of one carbon and two oxygen atoms; carbon dioxide exists in
gaseous state at above -78.50C and in solid state (dry ice) below -78.50C. This characterization is among other
variable that could change it from solid to gas by sublimation.

CO2 in combination with other chemical compounds produce chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which are responsible for
ozone depletion and global warming leading to climate change. Other components of ICT that contribute to climate
and environmental degradation include;

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E.C Arihilam and Eguzo C. V: Continental J. Information Technology 4:27 - 30, 2010

ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT
Personal Computers with cathode ray tubes (CRT) monitors, televisions etc that generate temperatures above 600C
at long working hours can reduce air quality, cause health related symptoms and reduce productivity of office
workers. The main source of pollution are from electronic components, plastic addictives and flame retardants. At
temperatures above 600C, they have been known to produce chemical emissions. Printers and copiers especially are
known to introduce unhealthy solid particles and gasses into buildings and persons including brominated flame
retardants, dusts, ozone, volatile organic compounds and ammonia.

FOSSIL FUEL EXHAUSTION


Manufacturing computers is material intensive; the total fossil fuels used to make one desktop computer weigh over
240kgs, some 10 times the weight of the computer itself. This is very high compared to many other goods. For an
automobile or refrigerator, the weight of fossil fuel used for production is roughly equal to their weights. The
environmental impacts associated with using fossil fuels are significant and deserve attention.

E-WASTE
The less regulation of trans-border shipment has led to shipping of significant quantities of used electrical and
electronic equipment to developing and underdeveloped countries. The condition and quality of these exported items
of electronics is substantially low because they are either not functioning or have only a short remaining service life.
Nigeria, Ghana, India, etc have been at the receiving end of these waste dumps which had constituted health risk and
environmental threat due to low quality waste management system (Sander and Schilling, (2010). When these e-
materials are out of use, they are either burnt, buried or dumped into water ways. Much of the wastes end up being
discarded along rivers and roads. In some cases, dealers and traders pay some workers and scavengers a pittance to
burn the plastic casings and wire insulations in broken machines and strip out the “sought-after-material” such as
gold and copper. The low-tech recovery process could expose such workers and their local environments to lead,
cadmium, mercury and other hazardous materials used to build electronics. The workers can also be exposed to
carcinogenic compounds called dioxins that are by-products of incinerated plastics.

ICT IN GLOBAL CHALLENGES


ICT has significantly shaped the future and helped address global challenges. In a bid to aid recovery of the global
economy, a number of nations have invested in massive stimulus packages. In USA for instance, 13 percent of
stimulus spent was dedicated to IT. It can therefore be logically agreed that IT is a foundation from which much of
the globes current challenges including climate change could be successfully addressed. The world is currently
facing challenging times characterized by multifaceted issues and concerns. Some of them include sustainable
development, population and resources, democratization, global convergence of IT etc. These global issues have
further been exaceberated by the current global financial issues which have led to massive erosion of wealth as a
result of job losses, stock market collapses, extreme volatility in oil and other commodities. The four key IT trends
that have the potentials of helping humanity to combat these challenges are :-
1. INTERNET COMPUTING: Which offers businesses greater flexibility in achieving cheaper computing
with added flexibility.

2. MOBILE PHONES: Which is fast becoming the interface for everything and may soon surpass the TV as
the dominant mode of entertainment and media consumption.

3. WIRELSS AND SATELITE COMMUNICATION: Which offers cheap, diverse and reliable
telecommunication in the event of an unforeseen natural disasters. As seen in Haiti, Wireless broadband
and satellite links played a dependable role in the rescue, recovery and re-building of the quake-hit Haiti.
When terrestrial networks and even the undersea and other cable dependent networks were knocked off by
earthquake, only the Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSAT) remained the dependable means of ISPs in
Haiti

4. CONVERGENCE OF 4Cs (Collaborating, Communication, Community and Contact): Which has resulted
in the fussion of traditional collaboration tools with media and user contents to produce a healthy mix of
possibilities and given rise to phenomenal like facebook, youtube, twitter, wikis, etc.

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E.C Arihilam and Eguzo C. V: Continental J. Information Technology 4:27 - 30, 2010

COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE THROUGH RADIO COMMUNICATION


The use of radio spectrum for meteorological services aimed at weather, water and climate monitory and prediction
can be employed to fight climate change. Radio-based ICT applications such as remote sensors are currently the
main source of observation and information about the earth’s atmosphere and surface. Between 1980 and 2005, over
7,000 natural disasters worldwide took the lives of more than two million people and produced economic losses
estimated at over USD 1.2 trillion according to reports. Ninety percent of these natural disasters, 72 percent of
casualties and 75 percents of economic losses were caused by water, climate and water related hazards such as
droughts, floods, severe storms and tropical cyclones. Climate change monitoring and disaster prediction
mechanisms are therefore increasingly vital for our personal safety and economic well being. Furthermore, both the
ITU and WMO (World Meteorological Organization) should collaborate on the use of radio based ICT technologies
for weather, water and climate applications. Frequency bands required by measuring instruments such as radars,
satellite and radio sounds should be kept free from interference by other users. We recommend that the ITU should
allocate additional spectrum for observation systems involved in monitoring climate change.

GeSi INITIATIVE
According to Global e-sustainability Initiative (GeSi), transformation in the way people and businesses use
technology could reduce annual man-made global emission by 15 percent by 2020 and deliver energy efficiency
saving to global business of over Euro 500 billion
(http://www.sustainablelifemedia.com/contents/story/greenIT/globalIT). The report showed that while as a sector
ICT has a footprint of two percent global emission this will almost double by 2020.

This is countered by the sectors unique ability to monitor and maximize energy efficiency both within and outside
its own sector and could cut CO2 emission by up to five times this amount. This according to the report represents a
saving of 7.8 Giga-tones of carbon dioxide by 2020 greater than the current annual emissions of either United State
or China. The report added that Tele-working, Video-conferencing, e-paper and e-commerce are increasingly
common place, replacing such physical products and services with their virtual equivalents. Below are some of the
key findings of the Gesi Initiative which we believe by the time they become operational, will help achieve low
carbon economy.

THE SMART 2020: KEY FINDINGS


SMART GRIDS: Researches are going on, on how to develop and manage a smart grid for power supply. This will
only supply the required power and reduce losses to minimum. This when developed can apply to ICT equipment
and device to reduce power wastage.

According to Eggleston et al,[2002] IT equipment accounts for 26 percent of electricity consumption in an office in
California. This is also applicable to cities in developing countries where heat generating equipment are still in use
and the power required to provide appropriate cooling systems for them is enormous thus contributing to ineffective
energy management. Office and networking equipment generate heat and require proper cooling to function
effectively. Other big smart 2020 opportunities include:

SMART MOTOR SYSTEMS: Reducing electricity consumption in industry through optimized motors and
automations.

SMART LOGISTICS: Improving the efficiency of transport and storage. Eg. Solar powered automobiles.

PROLIFERATION OF ICT INFRASTRUCTURE


Arguably, most ICT/Telecommunication infrastructure could well be shared among operators to reduce their impact
on climate change. Some of these electronic ICT/Telecommunication infrastructure that could be shared include
base tower stations, transceivers for signal processing and transmission. Just as it reduces negative environmental
impact through sharing of antenna farms to limit radiation, incessant digging up of roads and pavement, as well as
proliferation of ICT/Telecommunication masts, infrastructure sharing enables operators to focus more o service
innovation instead of network deployment. For now, service providers should be told that Nigeria has gone beyond
the stage of initial deployment of ICT just for them to make quick returns because we want to connect. Then it was

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E.C Arihilam and Eguzo C. V: Continental J. Information Technology 4:27 - 30, 2010

each service provider deploying independent mast equipments and switches with the result that the whole land
appeared to have been littered with these masts some of which were put up in such a hurry thus ignoring certain
obvious engineering specification.
Collocation is what we should be thinking about now that these infrastructures are impacting on our environment in
diverse ways. In addition, we should be thinking of other environmentally friendly technologies to boast our growth
in ICT such as satellite and wireless technologies.

CONCLUSION
As we look forward towards the growth of ICT to about 4 billion by 2020 with Nigeria already having over 67
million mobile subscriber base within nine years of telecommunication boom, it is crucial to continue to recognize
that ICT tools have become imperative for the new socially networked generation to be used to collectively reduce
global ICT emission. Further sustainable growth is possible by adapting trends like virtualization of data centers,
long life devices, smart chargers, next generation networks and growth of renewable energy consumption by
encouraging solar powered base stations. ICT tools could help manage and reduce emission in its own sector
especially from data centers, telecommunication networks etc. Industry regulators like Nigerian Communication
Commission (NCC) and industry interest groups like Association of telecom companies of Nigeria (ATCON) should
ensure that the industry adheres to type-approved inventions.

REFERNCES.
Bankole Orimisan (2010, June 17); Radio communication for meteorology to combat climate change, Guardian
Newspaper Ltd. Pg 25 and 37

Climate change (2010); Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change April 2010

DailyTech (2010) Microsoft Launches African “Green Laptop Initiative”,


http://www.dailytech.com/Microsoft+launch+African+Green+laptop

Eggleston K, R.Jenson and Zechhauser (2002); Information and Communication Technologies, Market and
Economic Development Discussion Paper series, 0203, Department of Economics Torfts University.

Gartner (2005); Green IT, The new industry Shockwave presentation of symposium/ITXPO conference.
http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/inventory

Global IT Group Study on Climate Change Impact and Sustainable life media
http://www.sustainablelifemedia.com/contents/story/greenIT/globalIT

ICT and Climate Change http://www.itu.int/net/itunews/issues/2009/08/20.aspx

Sander K. and Schilling S. (2010); Transboundary Shipment of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment scrap –
Optimization of material flows and control. Federal Environmental Agency, Germany.

Received for Publication: 12/04 /2010


Accepted for Publication: 02/05 /2010

Corresponding author
Eguzo C. V
Electrical/Electronic Engineering Department, Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, Ebonyi State, Nigeria
Email:engrarihilam@yahoo.com

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