The importance of ICT infrastructure in preparing for Climate Change

I’m grateful to Tony O’Donnell from Cambium for pointing me towards a couple of documents on the ICT implications in terms of infrastructure in preparing for Climate Change.

The first is a cross-government report, “Climate Resilient Infrastructure“, which outlines the challenges to the transport, energy, water and ICT sectors. The report also sets out what action needs to be taken by infrastructure owners and operators, regulators, insurers and Government.

In a low carbon, climate-resilient world, investment in climate resilient infrastructure will help enhance the attractiveness of the UK for inward investment, benefitting the country, economy, business, users and Government. And a stable long-term policy framework for climate change mitigation and adaptation can set the UK apart from other countries left more vulnerable to climate-related risks.

The report says the ICT industry has an opportunity to play a leading role in increasing climate resilience by developing new technologies, for example, providing networks of sensors and other data points to provide information in relation to weather events.

For example, the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London are assessing the performance and condition of infrastructure. Using sensors and data management a detailed picture of the state of infrastructure assets and their resilience can be developed.

A recent report on the interactions of infrastructure stated that five sectors (energy, ICT, transport, waste and water) were all, to some extent, interdependent but that each was absolutely dependent on the provision of energy and ICT.

A second supplementary document on infrastructure adaptation features a study, undertaken by AEA Technology, to increase understanding of the long-term risks from climate change to ICT infrastructure.

The report examines the technical and operational impacts of climate change on the ICT sector, what this means for other infrastructure sectors and the international aspects of the UK’s ICT infrastructure. It also examines how the sector needs to adapt to climate change and how well the structure of the sector facilitates climate change adaptation. Based on this, the study makes recommendations for the changes required to increase resilience and the barriers that need to be overcome.

These include:

·         Raising the level of climate change awareness within the research and development parts of the ICT sector. Government can support this with funding and the provision of more detailed data sets.

·         Explore the potential of using cloud computing to enhance climate resilience by enabling data to be transferred from site to site around the globe, avoiding areas of increased weather risk.

·         Planning for the location of infrastructure and key buildings such as data centres should take into account the predicted future trends of climate change as well as traditional commercial drivers. Government can facilitate this though mapping and providing access to the relevant data.

·         Major procurers of ICT services, such as large companies, should use procurement and contractual processes to require an improved level of climate resilience, emphasising continuity of service rather than compensation for disruption.

·         Raise awareness within the ICT sector of the potential impacts of climate change. The Government can contribute to this, but it is also recommended that the major telecommunications providers organise collaborative efforts to build the business case for companies themselves to address climate risks.

·         Government, ICT providers and users should work together to review models for ownership, roles and responsibilities in the context of climate resilience, and to conduct a horizon-scanning exercise to scope out the long-term trends in the ICT sector and compare them with climate change.