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'Green ICT': More efficiently unsustainable? Joss Winn Centre for Educational Research and Development University of Lincoln January.

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Presentation on theme: "'Green ICT': More efficiently unsustainable? Joss Winn Centre for Educational Research and Development University of Lincoln January."— Presentation transcript:

1 'Green ICT': More efficiently unsustainable? Joss Winn Centre for Educational Research and Development University of Lincoln January 2010

2 The Jevons Paradox Technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource… In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given use, improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource – which increases demand and speeds economic growth, further increasing demand. Overall resource use increases or decreases depending on which effect predominates… The Jevons Paradox only applies to technological improvements that increase fuel efficiency.

3 What 'energy efficiency' looks like...

4 Economic growth is not absolutely decoupled from emissions Relative decoupling: The UK reported a 15% decrease in emissions from Absolute decoupling? In fact, UK emissions increased by 19% during when emissions from aviation, overseas trade, shipping and tourism were accounted for. Too Good to be True? The UK's Climate Change Record “The UK’s environmental impact is as significant from the resources exploited to produce its imports as from the domestic resources it consumes. It mandates counting emissions on a consumption basis.”

5 Technological efficiencies, increased energy consumption and increased GDP, are all linked

6 In a business-as-usual scenario, global energy demand is forecast to rise by 40% by Fossil fuels account for over 75% of supply.

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8 What about renewables? Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROIE)

9 David MacKay's Five Plans for providing renewable energy for the UK by They all assume significant energy efficiencies, as seen in the left image. Common features of the plans The five plans

10 Hubbert's Curve The dotted line is actual production. Notice how the energy crisis in the 1970s 'corrected' the trend. Peak Oil

11 Global oil production has plateaued since 2005 and has started to drop. Has Peak Oil arrived? Will we see $175/barrel oil in 2012? Oil hit an all-time high of $147/barrel in July 2008, two months prior to the financial crash.

12 “The peaking of world oil production presents the U.S. and the world with an unprecedented risk management problem. As peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.” The ‘Hirsch Report’: Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management. We need years of intense global effort to move away from oil without unprecedented economic, social and political costs. If oil did peak in 2005, we've left it too late......but an unprecedented shift to zero carbon fuels, assumes the use of energy intense fuels such as oil, to get us there. We can't build nuclear power stations on wind and solar power.

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14 Our economic model of growth, the paradox of efficiencies, the reality of EROEI and the time we have to act, does not lead us to 'sustainability'. A more useful, honest way of understanding and addressing our predicament is in terms of 'resilience'.

15 “Resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganise while undergoing change, so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks.”

16 Q: “Why be Green?” A: “Resilience” (but let's not kid ourselves)

17 Energy depletion and climate change will impose a different economic model. We can wait for it to happen... Source:

18 ...or we can plan for a more resilient economy and work towards it. We need to redefine terms like 'Prosperity', 'Sustainability', 'Business Continuity' Source:

19 What would change? New meanings and measures of success Limits on materials, energy, wastes and land use? More meaningful prices More durable, reparable goods Fewer status goods More informative advertising Better screening of technology More efficient capital stock More local, less global Reduced inequality Less work, more leisure Education for life, not just work Source: See also: Steady State Economy FAQ

20 Resilience, it seems to me, is a pre-requisite for sustainability if you accept the tangible and coupled threats of energy security and climate change enforcing long-term zero or negative growth. If oil production has peaked just prior to the worst economic crisis in living memory and faced with the need to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% in the next forty years, should we not first develop a more resilient model that we wish to sustain? In terms of energy use, can efficiencies alone lead to sustainability? No. Can renewables supply the ever increasing global demand for energy? No. At what point does ‘efficiency’ actually mean conservation, rationing and frugality? At what point do we change our habits, our ambitions and our institutions instead of telling ourselves that we are being efficient, as we do today? GreenICT, if it exists, may be thought of as ICT which contributes towards a zero growth or Steady State economy.


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