BitDepth 780 - May 03

The Telecommunications Authority hosts a forum on technology use in climate change.
Climate change and ICT
Richard Labelle speaks at the TATT Open Forum on climate change. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

On April 20, the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) held an ICT Open Forum titled “The use of ICTs in combating the effects of climate change.”
It seemed to be a quite curious subject, and one that didn’t immediately telegraph a predictable approach to the subject matter.
At least part of the talk by Richard Labelle, President of the Aylmer Group of Canada dealt with the sort of thing one might expect to arise.

Labelle touched on some technology related solutions, including cutting down on energy consumption by using telepresence, the advanced big brother of ordinary Internet based video conferencing, but the larger notion he floated was the concept of an Internet of Things, a view of the next phase of web connected development.
Labelle envisions a subnetwork of devices constantly talking to each other, allowing global IP based control and continuous monitoring of commercial technology implementations from far fewer control rooms than exist today.

Labelle cited studies at IBM that anticipate a trillion Internet connected devices in 2011.
The creation of a more detailed and instantly responsive network of earth sensors than exists today that would allow for faster reporting of potentially dangerous changes to the planet’s surface and far wider dissemination of that information to the people likely to be affected by it.

Japan, which sits on the Ring of Fire, a temblor prone clash of tectonic plates, made good use of this kind of technology when earthquakes hit that country recently and the early warning triggered by sensors is credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Some aspects of Richard Labelle’s talk are unlikely to sit comfortably with a Government depending on fossil fuels to buoy its balance of payments.
“Kyoto,” Labelle believes, “is not going to be renewed.”
Despite that, there are growing movements around the world to reduce civilisation’s heavy dependence on petroleum based products and to encourage the growth of renewable resources.

Much of the motivation for these concerns come out of scientific concerns about the impact of increases in greenhouse gases. The global economic recession, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), has slowed the rise in greenhouse gases and the agency is pushing to make that trend of reduction permanent.
The IEA has put the 450 scenario on the table as a more immediately achievable goal, capitalizing on the currently lowered emissions levels to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million.
Labelle reported that the leading investor in clean energy is China, which has pumped US$34.6 billion into projects supporting such initiatives, more than twice the US spending on the problem.

While 2012 has been offered as the date when mankind pays for its environmental carelessness in popular fiction, clean energy advocates are pushing for full replacement of fossil fuels by 2050, an effort that will require far greater investment than has been the case so far. 

To reach these goals, an incrementally applied worldwide investment of $10.5 trillion is required and these changes must take place at the same time that energy demand from China and India alone is expected to rise by more than 53 percent.
There have been some small successes in the campaign to reduce energy consumption, and between 1973 and 2005 energy use increased at a slower rate than it did in the decades before the first energy crisis.

Responding to “what do we do” questions from the audience, Richard Labelle suggested that the government create a richer network of smart sensors within and around this island to improve monitoring of both the built and natural environment, switch energy consumption from oil and petroleum to natural gas and consider building smarter houses that allow their tenants to monitor energy spikes and take personal action in reducing their energy use.
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