IBM Canada Ltd.
Innovation and how to stimulate it within Canada’s technology sector was at the top of the agenda at a recent
Science and Innovation Summit, but climate change and the role of IT in reducing it took centre stage on day two of the Toronto event.
“Innovation is generally driven by two things: one is called general purpose technologies and the other are general policy directions,” said Bill St. Arnaud, chief research officer of CANARIE Inc.
, a Canadian non-profit Internet development organization. “But I think climate change, although it’s a very serious challenge, is also a significant innovation opportunity.”
According to St. Arnaud, as one of the world’s worst emitter’s of carbon dioxide (20 to 25 tonnes per person), Canada needs to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2020. “That’s a huge challenge,” he said. “That’s going to affect every aspect of our lives – including computers, networks, everything we do.”
The technology industry has a stake in the carbon problem, and it will only grow in the coming years, St. Arnaud said. Presently, statistics suggest that the contribution of computing and telecommunications contributes between two and three per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. But the concern is that the figure could double every four to six years. “At that growth (the technology sector) is going to be one of the major contributors to carbon dioxide emissions,” he said.
St. Arnaud is a staunch believer in the notion that the answer to climate change isn’t energy efficiency. He believes the solution is reducing carbon. The benefits of doing so may not only help the planet, but it can bring in dividends for technology companies. St. Arnaud pointed to a recent Telephony Online
estimation that the zero carbon economy is worth US$700 billion.