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For 2011: What’s Coming in Climate Change and Carbon IT

Ann-Danylkiw | Tuesday December 21st, 2010 | 13 Comments

Last week at my co-working space Christmas party I was asked me about the next big thing in climate change IT.

2010 has certainly been about aggregating data and the end of this year gave plenty of hints about what ‘the next big thing’ is: data-based engagement.

I should say that I live in London, so I can’t speak for what’s going on in the US or on the Continent. This is specifically with reference to the UK.

For all of the hullabaloo about climate change that went on last year– especially in the mainstream media– it’s been equally as quiet this year.  But after the failure at COP15 and this year’s lack luster COP16 agreement, don’t think that the green community hasn’t been busy.  Indeed, it has been regrouping and rethinking the approach it takes to communicating climate change, as the topic has gone cold with ‘the public.’ It’s almost like we have to figure out how to communicate and engage without using the double ‘c’ word.

Before I get into what we can look forward to next year (probably the next few years) from the UK’s top green IT talent, I want to define precisely what I mean by communicate and engage: I mean making climate change and carbon tangible to people.  These are abstract notions. The extent of the impact of climate change is uncertain, carbon is invisible and doesn’t yet have the same normative connotation as pollution does.

Carbon and the observational consequences of climate change need to be made apparent in a way that is physical– that can be touched and felt. Further, they need to be made visible in our everyday lives. And then, people need to be engaged to do something about it. There are different types of engagement that work in the right combination in a functional form for different types of people– data, emotion, money.  The trick for today’s climate change IT types is to bring that mixture of appeal to new apps that make people inherently understand the consequences of their everyday choices. Moreover, as the public has become fatigued by climate change as a topic, engagement needs to be in a round-about kind of way, where behaviours that contribute to high-carbon choices are addressed using other language. Social networking and AR (artificial reality) is where the possibility lies.

What we’ve got so far is encouraging: lots of web-based networking applications for inter- and intra- business carbon reduction, internet applications that help people travel and work more efficiently, learn about upgrading their energy to a mix of renewables and traditional energy, and we have the first glimpse of what’s to come in the next few years: mobile apps in development that will do everything from utilize artificial reality (AR) to create carbon savings to putting control of your home’s carbon emissions in the palm of your hand.

What’s coming in climate change – related AR from what’s already here:

Eco-desk is a web app training system with definite possibilities for mobility. The program engages employees in highly contextualised nature: Eco-drive for light commercial vehicles and trucks shows drivers visually how to make fuel savings (conserve carbon) by showing them how their gauges should look whilst discussing low-carbon driving methods.

WorkSnug is a mobile app that wasn’t necessarily intended (but has the capacity) to mitigate climate change by reducing rush hour traffic jams.  WorkSnug is an AR app intended from professionals who can ‘work from home’. It shows you where there is wifi in proximity to your location. You can also check user ratings of those places for characteristics like electric outlet provision, food, and whether or not the management is bothered by a high number of freelance professionals hanging out.*  Cisco systems has adopted WorkSnug as part if its Connected Urban Development program to help cities move and conserve carbon more efficiently.

Here, Now is a product that’s in development that will be able to build on the WorkSnug idea: maybe your favorite neighborhood wifi cafe is full or you need to upload some data intensive files. Here, Now is looking at how to tell the population and energy usage of workspaces.

PassivSystems is an exciting app that will put users home energy control in the palm of their hand– even if they’ve left for vacation.  Yes that’s right, forgot to turn the heating down before you’ve started your drive to Granny’s house? No problem. Their iPhone app can help you with that and make suggestions about how to reduce your energy spending.

Sandbag is a UK energy think tank.  They’ve done fun stuff this year with data visualisation and their Geiger-counter like app is a great idea but perhaps a bit less practical than the others. The app allows users to see their proximity to some of the country’s highest emitters but these are mostly large power plants.  While this promotes consumer awareness, it might be a bit too novel.

But Sandbag’s app has definite possibilities with the UK government setting the example by making their carbon footprint data available online to the public.  As companies begin to do this and pressure increases to sustainably label products I can easily see the emergence an AR app that will tell you how large a carbon footprint your favourite high street shops have and barcode scanners that tell you how ethical products are.

Something like this is now available in UK: Barcoo was developed in Germany and tells users how well a company treats its employees to how ethically they source their products.

UK readers: what have I missed? What do you like?

US readers: What’s the best in the US? What should I check out while I’m home for the holidays?

*Full disclosure: Ann is a WorkSnug ambassador.


▼▼▼      13 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • klem

    I agree, what is needed is a whole new way of tricking the public so that they are paying money to greenies while not knowing that is what they are actually doing. In many countries this is called fraud but in the Uk it’s probably ok. And of course, when the public realizes thay have been fleeced yet again by the greens, I’m sure there will be no consequences. Good luck with this. Cheers.

    • Victor

      Just because you might be accustomed to working in a field where the public is fleeced does not mean the greens are doing the same thing. We’re talking about a global emergency here not selling a new product. The deniers don’t care about climate change all they care about is their own selfish agenda.

    • Avery

      Imbecile. Tell me how any of the ideas above “fleece” anyone? In almost all cases these business ideas save people money, or reduce pollution, or both. How is that a bad thing? How is anyone “fleeced”?

  • Dan Pangburn

    Climate Scientists who still believe in AGW are apparently unaware of the relevant science that demonstrates that any human contribution to Global Warming (or Climate Change) is between small and insignificant and they apparently are unable or unwilling to learn.

    From 2001 through October, 2010 the atmospheric CO2 increased by 21.8% of the total increase from 1800 to 2001 while the average global temperature has not increased significantly and the trend of the average of the five reporting agencies from 2001 through 2009 is actually down. They all report the results of their measurements on the web so anyone with a computer can check these numbers. The 21.8% CO2 increase is the significant measurement, not the comparatively brief time period.

    As this wide and rapidly growing separation between the rising CO2 level and not-rising temperature continues, more and more climate scientists are beginning to realize that maybe they missed something and more of the general public are becoming aware that they have been deceived. I wonder how wide this separation will need to get before some begin to realize that climate related papers that have been published in what have been called reliable sources are not reliable and that so-called peer review of climate related papers has been de facto censoring.

    THE FACTORS THAT RESULTED IN THE 20th CENTURY GLOBAL TEMPERATURE RUN-UP HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED. (No thanks to ‘Climate Scientists’)

    The contribution of added atmospheric carbon dioxide is between small and insignificant. The time-integral of sunspot numbers (which correlates with the average altitude and thus average temperature of clouds) and effective sea surface temperature are the main contributors.

    A simple equation, with inputs of accepted measurements from government agencies, calculates the average global temperatures since 1895 with 88% accuracy (87.6% if CO2 is assumed to have no influence). See the equation, links to the source data, an eye-opening graph of the results and how they are derived in the pdfs at http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=145&linkbox=true (see especially the pdfs made public on 4/10/10 and 6/27/10).

    The future average global temperature trend that this equation calculates is down.

    As the planet cooling trend continues Climate Scientists grasp at straws to keep the grants coming. Tens of billions of dollars wasted so far. A lot of Climate Scientists are embarrassed now. Some will probably hold out for total humiliation.

    It will be a long time before ‘science’ recovers from the AGW Mistake.

    • Avery

      “Climate Scientists who still believe in AGW”

      You mean, like, *all* scientists? Where do you deniers keep coming from? It’s really bizarre.

      That said, I do believe the FOX news idiot brigade may actually be a bigger threat to humanity than global warming. They threaten a lot more than just the cimate!

      • Dan Pangburn

        Avery,
        Apparently you are one of the gulible public who has not yet realized that you have been deceived. I wonder how much larger the growing separation between the rising CO2 and not rising average global temperature will need to get for realization to take place.

        What part of “calculates the average global temperatures since 1895 with 88% accuracy” did you not grasp?

        • Avery

          Indeed! I guess so…. tell me, in which scientific journal has your study been reviewed as of late? If it’s true, then woopie! You’re due for a nobel prize.

          But rhetoric aside, do you think any of the business developments above are bad things? Even id there is no climate change, there are so many benefits to getting off fossil fuels it’s hard to start listing them. Likewise there are so many problems besides climate change that need to be addressed it’s still to think of it as the only one (even if it is one of the biggest).

  • Dan Pangburn

    In March, 2008 a paper of mine was made public on line (Google my name) that showed that CO2 was not a significant cause of global warming. About a year ago, I discovered the factors that resulted in the average global temperature up and down trends since 1895. This corroborated that the influence of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is between small and insignificant.

    All of the source data and the equation are provided at the above link so anyone who is competent with a spread sheet can ‘peer review’ my findings. The usual journals, Nature, etc. are hopelessly biased. They are not knowledgeable of a plethora of relevant science that is very familiar to an experienced Mechanical Engineer like me. They won’t even publish articles by a renowned Climate Scientist like Dr. Roy Spencer so what chance does a lowly engineer have? I do have a paper that is being published in a lesser known journal in early 2011 however.

    I am all for saving energy. I always have been. It saves money. But the savings must be cost-effective. And there are often unforeseen consequences so caution is always appropriate. The free market eventually sorts out the good and the bad.

    What are the “many benefits” of getting off fossil fuels? Reducing CO2 emission is not one of them. CO2 is what plants use to make food and an increase to over 10 times the current level has no deleterious effect on humans and no significant effect on climate. The main reason that I can think of is that fossil fuels are all finite and will eventually be used up. The tens of billions of dollars that were wasted in futile efforts to prove AGW could have been more beneficially spent developing a replacement such as algae based bio-diesel. Better yet, develop a diesel engine that runs on vegetable oil (Rudolf Diesel’s invention first ran on peanut oil) to avoid the energy wasted in transesterification of vegetable oil into bio-diesel.

    I would like to see your short list (how about 4 besides the one I mentioned) of benefits of getting off fossil fuels and a short list (4?) of problems if we delay.

    • Avery

      Very well… a short list of non CO2 related reasons to ditch fossil fuels. (I’m lumping Coal, Oil, Gas together, so not all reasons apply to all)

      1) Other forms of pollution (this could be more than one reason – Mercury, Soot/Particulate Matter, SO2, Smog and the crap you breath walking around any major city)

      2) Funding of Islamic Terrorism and un-democratic societies (specific to oil). Nuff said there.

      3) Oil Spills, ie BP, god-awful mess in Tennessee.

      4) The fact that the price is likely to start spiking and causing civil unrest in a society unprepared to deal with life sans-car.

      5) National Security (related to #2, but there are other benefits to home grown energy)

      6) Land use – suburban sprawl caused by automobile dependance has a huge host of costs – social, economic, and environmental. Yes, electric cars may continue these problems, so I’m more about encouraging a mix of options – bike, walking, transit, and cars – rather than today’s “car only” development policy.

      7) Military cost – again related to #2 – but we spend billions a year keeping oil cheap and flowing via military expense. I’d at least like to see this fact reflected in the price paid at the pump rather than my income tax. Some folks estimate thist is $2-$3 per gallon hidden cost.

      8) Total destruction of Appalachia’s landscape. Not just an aesthetic issue, those mountains ensure clean water, recreational use, etc…

      9) More jobs at home. Green energy tends to be local energy. Money spent in US economy vs. Iraq.

      10) Using oil for better reasons. Quit burning it. Use it for advanced plastics etc… that have a longer life given the eventual demise of the supply

      11) Promotion of innovation. Related to #9 – new technologies, new companies, new industries = stronger country.

      That’s what I could come up with in about 5 min….

  • Dan Pangburn

    Thanks for the list. I am also concerned about many of the same things that you are but see things somewhat differently. Here are my comments:
    1) Mercury, particulates and SO2 are bad things produced by burning coal but, at least in developed countries, they are (almost completely) removed by precipitators. Hybrids don’t help much unless the electricity is generated by nuclear. Too bad that it is so easy to scare people about things that they can not see.
    2) I too think that it is dumb to buy stuff from people who are out to kill us. The politics in America that prevents exploiting our own resources is at least as dumb.
    3) Spills are actually pretty rare. Damage to the ecosystem is never anywhere near as bad as the media hype leads one to believe. The largest and longest lasting damage from the BP spill was inflicted by our own incompetent and misguided government.
    4) There is already a lot of civil unrest but it was and is caused by opportunistic politicians. The freedom of personal transportation isn’t going away anytime soon. As the price of fuel goes up, and it will, we will see more car pooling, park-and-ride, people selecting cars that get better mileage and yes, paying more attention to commute distance. My personal favorite is a plug-in diesel hybrid that burns vegetable oil produced by algae and plugs in to electricity generated by nuclear.
    5) See 2.
    6) The automobile allows the freedom to live remote from work. I believe that people should have the freedom to choose where they live. I biked to work for years but then that job went away and I had to commute, so I car pooled. I even did an analysis of the optimum number of people in a car pool. For a typical situation, I was surprised to discover that it is only 1 or 2 besides the driver.
    7) See 2. Although this is often said, it is not supported by the evidence. Oil is bought on the open market by private companies. Most of our imported oil comes from Canada. Our military is to protect us from the bad guys. How much would our military be reduced if private companies stopped buying oil on the open market?
    8) Aesthetics are subjective. I have often wondered why if nature does it, like the Grand Canyon, it is beautiful but if man does it, it’s ugly. I agree that you need to make sure that your water is safe to drink. You certainly shouldn’t spoil your own nest. Here in Arizona we have a problem with excess arsenic in the well water. All natural.
    9) Jobs that can be done elsewhere at lower cost will be done elsewhere at lower cost. If we could just get past the dopy politics that prevent us from exploiting domestic oil resources it would provide a few jobs and drastically reduce the money leaving the country. If by green energy you mean wind turbines I expect that eventually the capital investment will pay off and they will no longer need the 25% subsidy. Solar voltaic, however, is hopeless as a central power source. With the generous rebates (making others pay for the installation), elimination of distribution costs and the back-up by the grid when the sun isn’t shining, they are OK for home use if you don’t mind having holes poked in your roof.
    10) I agree with you on that and have felt that way for several decades. More recently I have determined that algae produced vegetable oil should work as a replacement. A site 110 miles on a side in the desert with nothing but sea water, sunshine and genetically engineered algae could produce all of the fuel used for transportation in the US today. There are algae that can produce that much oil but they are not robust and would lose out to more robust species and there are robust species but they are not high oil producers. The genetic engineering is to make the high oil producers more robust and/or increase the oil production of the robust species. Exxon-Mobil is the only entity that I am aware of with a substantial research project involving algae.
    11) See 10. If the government would just get out of the way . . . and stop wasting resources in a futile attempt to prove that more atmospheric CO2 is bad and taking more money from successful people who might risk it to try these things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edward-Agreenhalgh/1410982634 Edward A.greenhalgh

    People Climate Change has always occurred in history, but it also had consequences : species went extinct. I explain this to President Obama in material being sent to him and posted on http://www.cancerfraudbadbiotech.com 2011 updates from index choose letter C Corruption and read pages 34 to 56 as this explains the effect of emerging diseases to target unfit species for death.The explanation is complex but made so the average person will understand it. Also see HOA Fees for the Planet Earth from the same menu.The real question becomes, if I can scientifically prove to you that you will die if you don’t clean up the environment , do you care enough to save your own lives? I’m not sure most people do, and the situation is like the event from history were the mayor of Paris is shown a clear glass of water with cholera in it . He declared it clean, drank it and died a few weeks later. This is the point I believe y0u and the rest of the human species is . Do you want to choose life, or drink the (cholera) water?Thank you E.A.Greenhalgh

  • Chris Hurley

    Most people over the age of 35 have learned long ago in their formative years that CO2 is not a pollutant. These folks have been, and will always be, skeptical of AGW. Having record snow and cold everywhere isn’t helping matters. It’s hard to believe global warming is causing global cooling. It just doesn’t make sense.

    How about coming up with some new environemtal evil? Something even more conceptually obscure, “unprovable” and equally invisible to the naked eye?

    How about correlating ions or electromagnetism or some other invisible energy consuming byproduct with an outlandish effect on the environment? The consequences should be earth-shaking yet preventable if we tightly control energy consumption immediately. There should be no time to waste and no time for further study.

    Can we “save” the planet from ourselves? Yes we can! The credit exchange will be fully functioning and protecting us by 2012.

    When can I have the app for my Android phone?!

  • Wrangler Wayne

    There was a significant decline in oil use during the 70’s oil crisis. Yet, no drop in atmospheric CO2 ppm is seen during that time frame. It leads me to conclude that atmospheric CO2 may not be man made, but entirely natural. This is also evidenced in that the atmospheric CO2 for both the northern and southern hemispheres show little variation even though much more is produced in the northern hemisphere.