Computers’ positive impact on climate change

Computers can be used to reduce emissions produced by other industries, up to 7.8 billion tonnes by 2020, or five times ICT's own footprint. Computers can make industries more efficient and less wasteful of power and fuel.

Using computer models to analyse climate change

The Community Earth System Model (CESM) will be one of the primary climate models used for the next assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The CESM is one of about a dozen climate models worldwide that can be used to simulate the many components of Earth’s climate system, including the oceans, atmosphere, sea ice, and land cover. The CESM and its predecessors are unique among these models in that they were developed by a broad community of scientists. The model is freely available to researchers worldwide.


 Community Earth System Model

(click on image for link to slide show)


Scientists rely on computer models to better understand Earth’s climate system because they cannot conduct large-scale experiments on the atmosphere itself. Climate models, like weather models, rely on a three-dimensional mesh that reaches high into the atmosphere and into the oceans. At regularly spaced intervals, or grid points, the models use laws of physics to compute atmospheric and environmental variables, simulating the exchanges among gases, particles, and energy across the atmosphere

Low power processors

Processors are becoming greener, with each generation employing smaller transistors that require less power. Using multiple processors, or ‘cores’, on the same chip also reduces energy consumption as collectively they require less cooling. Intel’s 4th generation processors, Haswell, or the 4th Generation Core Processor can go as low as 6 watts, measured by system design power (SDP).

Using ICT to reduce emissions

Using ICT to reduce emissions Perhaps the best-known of these enabling effects is to replace face-to-face meetings, which involve air or car travel, with videoconferencing. Reducing transport emissions using technologies such as videoconferencing and teleworking could save a potential 140m and 220m tonnes of CO2 by the year 2020.

Using computers to improve logistics (for example, by planning the routes of delivery vehicles more efficiently) could save 1.5 billion tonnes.

Using data networking inside a ‘smart’ electrical grid to manage demand and reduce unnecessary energy consumption could save 2 billion tonnes;

Computer-enabled ‘smart buildings’, in which lighting and ventilation systems turn themselves off if nobody is around, could save 1.7 billion tonnes.