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Climate Change and Information Technology: Interconnections and Solutions

“It is now clear to most observers that ICTs have a very important role to play here. Recognition of this at the international level will provide countries with a solid argument to roll out climate change strategies with a strong ICT element.”
-        Hamadoun Toure, ITU Secretary General (2011)[1]
Numerous documents, policy papers, and research symposiums have called for the need for recognition of the value of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in monitoring deforestation, crop patterns, and other related matters that call for environmental concern. Answering with common prudence, with Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) having penetrated so deep into our day to day personal as well as professional lives, it is highly unlikely that it wouldn’t pose a solution to the climate change issue, alongside a number of possible threats.
If the whole climate change solution regime were to be divided into two broad segments for the convenience of intellectual discourses, the first one would be preventive measures, and the second segment would be measures towards mitigation and adaptation. ICTs play a significant role in both the segments, starting from creating awareness aimed towards preventing environmental degradation to mitigating and adapting using remote sensing and telecommunication systems.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can in many ways be used to fight, prevent, and defend climate change as well as its effects. Following subheadings attempt at exploring some of the ways in which ICTs can be proved helpful in doing so.
Transformational innovation
Information Technology can help us a great deal in enabling transformational innovation. In a contextual note, the IoT (Internet of Things) will help us transform our lives, social and economic, in ways as dramatic as the Internet did over the past two decades. The development of Internet of Things and related technologies mean almost limitless possibilities for incorporating smart and eco-friendlier technologies into human lives that could not have been imagined a few years ago.
Innovations like smart cities, smart households, and smart transportation, inter alia, will help the human beings to raise their standard of living in the social set up while minimizing their footprint on the planet Earth and its climatic setting. Smarter technologies and equipment will mean a proportionate increase in the effectiveness of resource consumption, meaning less and less resource will have to be consumed to sustain more number of lives.
Smarter urban planning using ICTs
Smarter urban planning using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) goes a long way in ensuring energy efficiencies in the planned urban societies. A few recent projects feature this as their primary focus and are working on reducing the impact of climate change by applying information technologies and measures for improving energy efficiency in urban planning.[2]
Adaptation using information dissemination technologies
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) provide users with a large range of options to collect, process, and disseminate information at any point of time. More importantly, they also provide us with the option to easily broadcast any sort of information to a selected audience irrespective of the nature and volume of the information. This feature of ICTs helps us a great deal in disseminating information to large audiences, for example via mobile phones. This can help governments and other relevant stakeholders address major adaptation risks such as food and water shortages through the making of provisions for early warning systems and related facilities.

Capacity Building
Capacity Building is basically a UN terminology that essentially means access to information and increasing knowledge among policymakers and the general population. In the context of telecommunication networks, capacity building has the contextual meaning of expansion of telecommunication networks to serve a greater number of populations.
Greater access to information by the general population essentially implies increasing potential for dissemination of weather-related information through mobile phone networks. Increased dissemination of weather-related information amongst the general masses will not only help the building of community awareness regarding the growing impacts of climate change but also will make sure a more effective warning and adaptation system.
Asset management for Water Distribution Networks
Monitoring, controlling, and managing water distribution networks form a large part of the climate change adaptation system. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can make this job easier by helping with buried asset identification and electronic tagging. It can also help with the instalment of smart pipes which will ensure the efficient use of water resource. It’ll also help a lot in just in time repairs and real-time risk assessment.
Smart transport systems
Transport represents 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. However, leave alone human development, even human existence cannot be imagined without transport. Information technology comes to rescue over here, by providing for smart transport. ICTs provide us with ways to easily implement alternative ways of powering vehicles, such as with electricity. Smart transport also makes efficient use of routes and traffic data that is available through satellites, to make transport a less burdensome activity.
Awareness and education
This century has been officially proclaimed as the information era, and the role that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play in spreading awareness amongst the general public cannot be ignored. ICTs do an awesome job in spreading awareness and educating the mass. This feature of the ICTs can be very well utilised to spread awareness among the general population regarding the drastic effects of climate change, and also educate the masses regarding mitigation and adaptation strategies.
While the ICTs without a single strand of doubt can perform wonders in monitoring, preventing, and fighting climate change and its effects, they have often proved to be birds without wings in the absence of an equally strong legal framework. An accompanying strong legal framework will not only help protect the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of the relevant data and information but also help in the effective administration of such systems.
Confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of the relevant data and information must be protected without any exceptions whatsoever so as to successfully prevent climate change and fight the consequences thereof. A strong legal framework can go a long way in ensuring the same.
Accompanied by a strong legal framework, and adequate policy support, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) hold immense potential in preventing, monitoring, and fighting climate change successfully. Recognising this at the national and international level will go a long way in framing technologically-efficient climate control strategies with a strong ICT element therein. Lobby and policy support at local levels to include ICTs in climate control strategies will also be immensely helpful.

[1] In a symposium, organized by the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and hosted by Ghana’s ministry of Communications in Accra in July 2011.
[2] Energy and Buildings, Volume 115, 1 March 2016, Pages 102-111

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