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18 Dec 2008
Many people associate the digital economy with increased emissions. This would seem to be true at first glance: more people engaging with the digital economy means more devices and greater electricity consumption; more devices require more energy and result in greater pollution at manufacture and in disposal, generating 'e-waste'.
However, the way we look at it, digital technologies can actually work to assist us in achieving many of our environmental objectives in securing a greener planet.
For example, teleworking and videoconferencing can reduce the need to travel, whether by car or plane. A recent report notes the Australian division of global ICT manufacturer Cisco claims to have reduced air travel by 16 per cent in one year thanks to its telepresence technology. The Smart 2020 report estimates that information and communications technology can contribute five times its own footprint to the effort to reduce global GHG emissions.
Would you be less likely to travel for meetings or work if you had access to effective videoconferencing technology? Do you already use technology to use your carbon footprint? Is teleworking common in your workplace? If not, do you think it is a good thing? What do you think are the barriers to more widespread adoption of teleworking?
In addition to videoconferencing, the Telstra report Towards a High-Bandwidth, Low-Carbon Future: Telecommunications-based Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions claims that telecommunications networks can help reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by almost five per cent by 2015 and deliver up to $6.6 billion a year in cost savings for Australian businesses and households through real time freight management and increasing opportunities for the uptake of renewable energy.
'Smart meters' are currently under trial in various parts of Australia with the aim of reducing wasted electricity in the home and on grids. Examples include the Government's solar cities program and the recent announcement by Utility Country Energy of a trial of the use of smart meters on its grids.
Do you have a smart meter at home or have you seen one in operation? Has it assisted you in reducing electricity use—and, if so, how? If you don't currently have one, what would motivate you to use one?
These are just a few examples of digital economy technologies that can have a positive environmental impact. We welcome any comments or thoughts you have about other technologies, or applications of technologies, that you use or think could be to assist us in achieving a greener life.
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Hasn't this government had enough of the hysteria about the "environment"? Enough with the token causes that will simply increase costs for businesses that will be passed on to consumers and that in reality will have no effect whatsoever. 1. Australia's emissions are insignificant. We are a very low pollution country, period. Go to the cities of any country in the world and you can barely breathe due to their pollution. The air in our cities, on the other hand, is quite clean. But, you retort, we are one of the highest "per capita" polluting countries on Earth. I say: big deal. Why? There is basically a threshold of emissions that a developed country needs to emit to sustain its quality of life. We have significant industry that generates significant value for our economy that is responsible for much of the emissions. Whether our population is smaller or larger, that industry will still emit the same amount to produce the same output. Therefore, "per capita" emissions is a fraudulent argument when used to suggest we should reduce our emissions. 2. The science is uncertain. We can't even reliably predict the weather tomorrow, so what makes you think we can predict it a century in advance when our models are painfully inadequate? What is the effect of the sun on our heating and cooling? Do we know the effect and interaction of all the gases in the atmosphere? What about the role of the oceans? Does the Earth incorporate an automatic feedback loop that tends to balance our emissions? Won't life simply evolve to adapt to the changing environment? Is the data even correct? These are all unanswered questions. It turns out that significant heating was observed in an arctic area -- except that it was false, as NASA's scientists had simply copied data from one region and applied it to that region. Luckily, one chap did not take the numbers at face value and exposed this. Who knows how many more similar instances there are. If we talk of incentives, "scientists" have a great interest in talking up global warming (or is it cooling now? Is that why the name has been changed to "climate change", to cover all bases?) because there is significant money being poured into research that, obviously, they would benefit from. Simple self-interest theory from economics tells you at least that much. And, given the fact that many of these people would otherwise be out of a job, you can see the incentive to talk up so-called climate change to be quite high. 2.5. Climate change "science" is not real science. (This is related to the above point.) Us scientists follow a simple process called the scientific method. It involves making a testable hypothesis then performing experiments to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Climate "scientists" by definition do not perform science, as they cannot perform any meaningful experiments. Theirs is more a branch of art -- looking at the world and trying to interpret it. That is the most generous way I can put it. 3. Will any action we take have any meaningful effect? Even if we moved back into the trees as some "climate change" exaggerists want, thus reducing our emissions to zero, our efforts will be insignificant because China and India, which have indicated they do not take climate change seriously at all and intend to continue growing, will more than make up for our savings. We only make up about a percent of the world's emissions. It would probably take China less than a month to overtake any savings made by us turning off. This does not mentiond the developing countries in Asia and Africa. Our efforts in a country of 20 million will always be insignificant, given the population of over 3 billion in developing countries increasing their emissions as they develop. 4. Any action for the sake of the environment will make the effects of the "global financial crisis" worse in Australia. Increased red-tape means increased costs for doing business in Australia. Companies will move overseas. If they are on the brink given the financial crisis, this may push them over the edge into insolvency, costing Australian jobs and making the "GFC" worse in Australia. Sound economic management in these times requires less compliance costs for businesses and more incentives to invest. Environmental regulation gives neither. 5. Australians will pay the price. Just like increases in the price of petrol quickly caused the price of all goods in the economy to rise (as fuel is needed for the transport of all goods), so will prices rise to cover the costs of complying with any new environmental regulation. Companies will not need to reduce emissions. They will simply pay the carbon tax and pass the costs onto consumers who will bear the brunt. And going to a "greener" company won't do any good, either. Their prices are higher because it costs more to be "green". Give me cheap Australian coal-fired power any day. Don't let the lunatics run the asylum.
Posted by Anonymouse / 23 Dec 2008 11:13pm / Permalink
Videoconferencing technology, lol. I can see Rudd747 using it. A barrier to this more widespread adoption would be filtering ISP so PLEASE stop.
Posted by Blue / 23 Dec 2008 1:24pm / Permalink
@texinick. I'm with you. This Verity looks like an apologist for the Government. Are they too frightened to come out and speak? Who are these faceless people?
Posted by Darcy Waters / 22 Dec 2008 2:50pm / Permalink
No, no smart metering here. I can look after my own energy use, water use & rubbish recycling and carbon footprint by far larger steps without that. I have a much simpler meter that costs nothing. Its called The Bill. Which I pay out of my inadequately indexed pension. I do have a good BS meter installed, though. Since taking the time "to get it right" (=another year passed) resulting in "decisive leadership" (=ignore all inconvenient advice) over which the governement "will not apologise for taking the hard decision" (=picked the lowest concievable target above do sod all), let me tell you something. You know what? Whatever advisers within or outside Federal Depts come up with, on any topic, it'll just be another heap of paper that disappears in to the Prime Ministerial suite for some glacial age. From whence it will much later emerge, tawdrily dressed up by a turgid and prolix speech, yet still detectable on the BS Meter as political smart aleckery aimed for the electoral booth in 2010, and not for the general good at all. Tell the Minister that.
Posted by Groucho / 21 Dec 2008 8:29am / Permalink
The Gershon Report recently published through finance.gov.au outlines many (but not all) improvements to information handling by government, such as the advantages of properly managed data centres. These have much wider application than merely to government agencies. It may be useful to provide guidelines to data centre operators and potential customers within Australia about various legal issues (e.g. ownership and confidentiality of information, guarantees of non-transference of that information outside Oz, etc) so that adoption of centralized data services by businesses (including SMEs) can proceed more quickly. At the same time, electronic document management, especially for contracts, is difficult when use of digital certificates and PKI by the community is very immature, especially when compared with Singapore which allows all or nearly all legal documents (as properly secured PDF files and forms) to exist only in electronic form, reducing the environmental costs of paper-based documents. Combining these two themes, it may be reasonable for the government to consider providing a free service to all individuals to manage keys and certificates, while providing central and secure storage (accessible only by the individual and appropriate agencies) of archival versions of all important "paperwork" between the government and the citizen. With a nominal charge to cover costs, a similar services to Australian businesses could both enhance the digital economy while reducing the environmental footprint of general business activity.
Posted by Dave Bath / 20 Dec 2008 2:33pm / Permalink
Sure the internet filter might be popular with the public. Even those opposed to the filter agree with *some* of the goals of those who plan to set it up. However those with technical knowledge also know how easy it will be to circumvent and how useless it will be for some of its stated goals. We who WORK using the internet and who get hundreds of pages per day for business use (without once visiting a porn site, go looking for pictures of little girls, or enquire how to make bombs) fear that a couple of percent of false hits will mean that vastly more useful, legal, helpful, and/or innocent sites will be blocked than dubious ones. I, for one, will be circumventing it just so that I am not hindered at work. I do not want to pay that extra tax on my internet usage, but hey. I suspect that I will not be alone. One solution that *will* work is TOR. If you don't know what that is then go google it. It is very simple to set up, very difficult to block, and designed for this exact purpose. It is also strongly rumoured to be used currently by those who don't want law enforcement tracking what they do on the internet. TOR relies on encryption but also on hiding dubious traffic in a sea of innocent traffic, As more and more people use TOR (and almost exclusively for innocent reasons) it becomes harder and harder to track "illegal" traffic through it, making it easier for those who use it to actually visit places on the internet that would probably sicken the average person. I would prefer not to help them, but the Internet filter will have the effect of making their access safer. As I said previously, I will try to use another method, but how many people will be prepared to pay for a service that is not completely anonymous when they can use an anonymous network (TOR) for free? And at what real cost will this be?
Posted by Steve / 20 Dec 2008 9:28am / Permalink
According to a recent poll there's a fair bit of public support for the filters. Online people need to get offline and start talking to their friends, coworkers and neighbours rather than nagging a government which doesn't appear to be interested. Why would they be when it has public support?
Other people here are right. It's almost impossible to answer the issues raised here while we have the filters hanging over our heads and, on the environment, this government is barely distinguishable from the last one. We're being offered a third rate broadband network and heavily subsidising antique automotive industries.
Every single day you can find people discussing these problems and proposing solutions. Every single day you can find people disappointed that this government's policies prevent those solutions from becoming reality.
People genuinely want Australia to be the best of everything, so it's hard to deal with the disappointment.
Posted by Lyn / 19 Dec 2008 11:37am / Permalink
@Verity: In this instance I am in agreement with Rohan. People are getting worked up because we are being treated with contempt. What is the point in continually posting these topics when EVERY SINGLE ONE is affected by the Clean Feed Filter this government are proposing. We can't have a serious discussion while this is hanging over our heads. It affects the Digital Economy, it affects the Regulations of OUR internet, it affects many peoples livelihoods and it even affects the environment. It is plain to see to everyone that looks at these forums that 97% of the people posting are against the feed. Until this has been brought up as a topic, discussed, and finally put to rest, we can not seriously discuss the questions this department are asking. Several topics ago, we were told we were being listened to, and that this topic would appear as another discussion. Yet still they keep posting questions evading the subject that REALLY MATTERS.
Posted by texinick / 19 Dec 2008 9:25am / Permalink
Government departments are prolific consumers of paper and enforce paper-based signature and records management processes on themselves, the public and businesses.
A step towards better resource and lower energy use (given the full energy chain required to create and store a piece of paper) would be for government to accept electronic signatures and move rapidly to mandate electronic only document storage.
This approach would also facilitate providing the vast majority of government services online, thereby creating lower cost and lower energy use channels for engagement with government.
A flow-on effect would be for businesses to reduce their own paper use by shifting to electronic communication with government and more efficient direct integration of systems, both reducing energy consumption and reducing operational costs.
At the same time the burdens on new forms of energy need to be reduced, or the burden on existing energy supplies increased such that 30 year old coal and gas-fired power plants are subject to the same assurance and environmental studies as proposed solar towers, wind and tidal farms. If this is not done then the government is effectively providing a regressive overhead on new and emerging energy supplies that supports the ongoing exploitation of highly polluting fuels. Yes this will create pain, but better to create this type of pain then the rising cost of the use of coal as a baseline power supply.
When striving to encourage greater use of the online channel in reducing energy use it is pointless to focus simply on energy consumption and ignore the impacts of energy generation by legacy power plants.
For the record, the 5-15% reductions proposed by the Rudd government are far too shallow. While I agree with the proposal of helping embarrass large polluters into taking action, Australia for our own sake needs to move more aggressively on reducing pollutants. We can become part of the solution rather than remaining part of the problem.
Posted by CraigT / 19 Dec 2008 6:39am / Permalink
I work from home so I save on lots of carbon emissions that would be caused by travelling to and from the office. However my clients (who are in the US) expect to see me for meetings once a year (the rest are done over the internet) so my flying time probably adds to my footprint.
Posted by Steve / 18 Dec 2008 8:10pm / Permalink
Verity Pravda - im sorry i can't hear you over the GIANT FRICKEN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. The great wall of the internet issue will go away as soon as comrade conroy gives "us" some feedback on the issue, instead of ducking and weaving, well actually, by just starting other topics to deflect pressure about the clean feed. LET US SEE THAT WE ARE ACTUALLY HAVING AN IMPACT. (or not, as the case may be)
Posted by Jay / 18 Dec 2008 7:32pm / Permalink
Never mind - video conferencing how about just being able to access employers network and applications to do regular daily work. If more people were able to work from home a couple of days a week it would reduce traffic congestion, car emissions, save me time and money. It would be the equivalent of getting a pay rise. But there are obstacles - home offices have to be inspected to make sure they are compliant with OHS requirements, corporate culture needs to change to even have this considered.
Posted by Peta / 18 Dec 2008 5:52pm / Permalink
I'm willing to bet that the Great Firewall of Australia will not be making an appearance on this blog, no matter how much we may bring it up. Let me posit an alternate scenario for you: in spite of knowing already that the GFoA is a BAD IDEA (TM), the government needs a way to back out of it without too great a loss of face (if such a deed is still possible at all). Consider: why else would you bother to have a 'live trial' which is conducted on a closed network? Posting a blog entry about the filter (while cathartic for all of us) would open a huge can of worms for the government. Rohan, it may be that the government is pretending to ignore the elephant in the room, hoping to get it back out the door before too many more people arrive at the party. (Of course, for those of us already in the room, the stench lingers...)
I'm not suggesting we should let the issue go (far from it -- we should continue to be vocal about all the repercussions on these areas which the government has not considered), but I won't be holding my breath for a post about it until one of two things happens: (a) the government issues a statement along the lines of 'after careful consideration, we have decided that implementing the filter would not be feasible with the current infrastructure', in which case it becomes a moot point (so may not get more than a brief press release even then); or (b) the filter gets implemented. Of course, in the case of the latter, chances are none of us will find out about it since we won't be able to access the intertubes anymore...
Posted by MattR / 18 Dec 2008 5:50pm / Permalink
I do wonder whether people like Rohan who replies to this post "Are you kidding - we want to discuss the elephant i the room?" whether that is his approach in any other forum on the net.
Does he join any other pre-existing discussion thread and say "I know you are discussing X, but I really want to discuss Y." Is he so arrogant to believe that the only issue in life that sould be discussed is the one he is discussing?
Posted by Verity Pravda / 18 Dec 2008 5:18pm / Permalink
How can the Digital economy help achieve environmental objectives. Easy!! just set aside a meaningless target such as 5% by 2020 that way you can easily meet your objectives. Then when your done post an entry on the digital economy blog expressing your deepest concerns for the environment and how the digital economy can help. Thereby giving the impression that A) you care about the environment and B) you direct the discussion away from the topic of ISP filtering. /end sarcasm
Posted by Refused Classification / 18 Dec 2008 5:18pm / Permalink
Are you kidding? It's clear we want to discuss the GIANT ELEPHANT in this room - the Censorwall. It's a freaking GIANT ELEPHANT! What are you blind? Good grief!
Posted by Rohan / 18 Dec 2008 2:57pm / Permalink
The application of digital technologies to offset environmental costs of business travel have been ineffective. In my opinion this is due to the video-conferencing technologies being hampered by inadequate bandwidth. There is also a lack of development of technologies that make the video conferencing more like the face to face meetings. I have a vision where when I am in a video conference I see all the participants in a three dimensional view projected from my visual display unit, and get realistic audio that comes from the direction of the participant. I should be able to draw on the virtual whiteboard with my finger or via a tablet device connected to my PC. To me and all the other participants it needs to emulate the physical meeting so body language, facial expressions and all those other communicative devices we use in physical meetings are present in virtual ones. Oh, and the other one to overcome - time differences around the world. I'm sure there is a way I can meet with someone in the US without me having to get up at 3am! (other than them getting up at their 3am). Well maybe that one is science fiction, but certainly not the former.
Posted by Colin Contessa / 18 Dec 2008 2:03pm / Permalink
Thankyou for allowing me to comment. It is of great concern the environment is, and computing technology coupled with the internet has great potential to save on emissions. The savings don't end there, the traffic congestion, road building programs and similar also will benefit from telecommuting. BUT THEN YOU WANT TO INTRODUCE A CENSORSHIP FILTERING SYSTEM. What is the energy costs of all these filters being installed going to cost. Each filter handles less than 1Gbit/s and there are many TerraBits/s in Australia, so we are looking at a conservative figure of 10,000+ filter machines being installed with the associated infrastructure machines. That is massive increase in energy use and emissions. Then the censorship filter, even if use the best one for overblocking will still see >1% of legitimate sites being blocked. When considering what effect this will have on businesses planning on introducing telecommunication infrastructure, one will see a lack of confidence in doing such. The censorship filter will block legitimate business due to overblocking and no business will allow critical operations (eg conferences, typical working) to be done over the internet. In conclusion not only will the censorship filter increase dramatically the emissions by ISPs, but also dramatically stop the planned reductions in emissions by businesses, road infrastructure, transport requirements because of the lack of uptake of telecommuting by businesses. Did anyone in Senator Conroy's department even look at the effects of the censorship filter will have on society as a whole and not just emissions.
Posted by Concerned Christian / 18 Dec 2008 12:23pm / Permalink
And again the issue of the filter is completely ignored.
How many tonnes of CO2 will be dumped into the atmosphere to run the expensive, ineffective and useless filters? This is how stupid your filtering plan is - no matter what you try to change the subject to, the new subject just continues to show weaknesses in your argument.
The only benefits of the filter are political... but you have a responsibility to the country to listen to the experts and do the right thing, instead of wasting money on political spin.
Posted by Eric / 18 Dec 2008 12:23pm / Permalink
Digital technologies can help reduce carbon emissions. However, the resources used and carbon produced in order to manufacture the hardware (not to mention the electricity they use) have to be taken into account. Under current conditions, I would say that digital devices are still creating more pollution than they save. I would argue that the tendency for digital technologies to cause consumers to buy more, (if only due to the rapid obsolescence of digital devices), makes this doubly true. Technologies that can reduce the need to travel, particularly by air, could have a significant positive impact. But videoconferencing and most other technologies require reliable and secure high-speed broadband access. Any obstacle to speed and reliability is going to reduce the effectiveness of these advances. On a different note, and with reference to the overall tone of this blog post and it's timing, do I detect a hint of "greenwashing"?
Posted by Sam D / 18 Dec 2008 12:17pm / Permalink
Well who cares, given all you need to do to get free carbon permits is be a really inefficient polluter? Sorry Labor, but we just don't take your seriously on environmental issues now. You've been captured by the polluters.
Posted by Simon Rumble / 18 Dec 2008 11:43am / Permalink
So how much energy will the extra ahrdware required for the Great Firewall of Australia? Quit avoiding the subject and address the issue that will effect the Australian Internet/Digital Economy the most, address the topic of the proposed unmandated compulsory goverment censorship (and crippling) of the Australian internet. If this filter is going to consume more energy than the the current infrastructure, can the Australian public look forward to even higher internet access charges?
Posted by Stainless Steel Rat / 18 Dec 2008 11:39am / Permalink
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