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Al Gore speaks about the communications industry role in Climate Change

Al Gore was received with a standing ovation at the recent CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas. People lined up outside the doors of the conference hours before his speech, and came running in to get good seats. It was indeed quite a rare site to see so many mobile professionals eagerly waiting to hear what the former Vice President had to say.

Unlike his previous speeches on Climate Change, he directed his focus on the communications industry and the role it can play to help the Planet with Climate Change. He indulged the audience in a history lesson of the Internet, communications technologies such as how Samuel Morse was apparently wanted to spare others the same misfortune he had faced (how he received news of his wife’s illness from a messenger on horseback and so he returned home  too late). When people are driven by serving than just making money, i.e driven by emotion, he felt, we often see true innovation.

What I found particularly pertinent in his speech, was he talked about how we face 3 major crisis today- The Economic Crisis, Climate Crisis and a Security Crisis.

That all three have a common thread, i.e. our absurd overindulgence and dependence on carbon based fuels. If you pull this thread, all three will unravel. We have finally come to a stage where there is more or less a bi-partisan approach to seeing this connection. Hence today there is a more sustainable political will to do something about this. He emphasised that it is key that we finally realize “that the solutions to the economic crisis is the same sort of solutions to the Climate Crisis”. Today, it does not cost but saves money to go Green. Unforunately, it is often the short term/quarterly based outlooks of companies that stop them from exploring these green solutions. 3- 5 years returns do not look attractive to companies who are afraid of being penalized byt the market for missing their targets even by a few pennies by even just one quarter. We clearly need a more long term view to recognize that investing now for the future has many advantages such as saving money, and keeping competitive edge.

We are at a rare moment in our history when putting in infrastructure to help stimulate the economy and keep our long term competitive edge could enable us to redesign whole systems and make them a green infrastructure. The closest analogy can be tapped from how the Internet evolved from connecting supercomputers over a distance to the decentralized small computers we have today. Energy technologies are also going through major innovation and it is possible to scale down and connect a network of microgrids. Wireless has a key role to play here as the last mile to connect these microgrids to the universal smart grid. In fact, the developing world without an electrical grid or communications grid, have the opportunity to leapfrog with wireless and offer a new form of intelligent energy information systems.

Climate Change is an important issue. The Planet has a fever which is getting higher and higher. We generate 70million tonnes of C02 everyday. 3,000 scientist around the world are unanimous in their findings that the ice is melting, our drinking waters are challenged, the thawing of the frozen Thundra will release more methane into the air making things worse and we are already seeing climate refugees in countries such as Bangladesh (they used to have major floods once every 20 years and not they have it once every 3-4 years-not enough time to rebuild).If we have a one metre level rise, we will see about 100 million refugees, 6 metre rise could lead to 450 million refugees and so forth. We are already seeing tropical diseases emerge in temperate climate zones and doctors say that this could lead to a health crisis beyond proportion.We could be facing an 11 degree Farenheit increase of temperature in this century. 

He strongly stressed that the time to act is now and we have to act together. Now is the time for business to take the lead and the wireless industry can play a key role moving forward.

Very interesting talk indeed and good points. Personally I was hoping to hear a little more and thought he might have spoke a little about the “Energy Internet” that Thomas Friedman referred to in his book. I think Al Gore having facilitated the way forward for the Internet world and now doing the same on the issue of Climate Change, can do much to enhance the conversation around how the communications industry can be a key tool to issues around reducing its own carbon footprint, play a role in the intelligent information energy systems, and  being a tool to help reduce the footprint of other industries. I do hope he will lead the path forward to have ICT play a key role in discussions at the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen.


This article was posted on Saturday, April 4th, 2009 at 8:59 pm You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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