As you may know, the snappily-named Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland is erupting. I know because I’m in the UK and the ash being thrown up by the volcano has drifted into our air space shutting down all flights in and out of the UK. (Much of mainland Europe is also affected).
It’s interesting because it shows just what an impact nature can have on our everyday lives, even when events are more than a thousand miles away and with no visible signs that there’s a problem. We have people who can’t get back to the UK to their jobs (some schools are short of teachers), there are queues for all routes in and out of the country by train and boat, businesses can’t bring in some goods and services (some suppliers in the developing world are watching crops rot because they can’t deliver them), shortages are likely for some foods, there are airlines that could go bust, etc.
It’s a lesson for those planning how they will handle the inevitable disruption that climate change will bring. The threat can come from a variety of sources – storms, rising sea levels, water shortages, etc, and although the impact may be localised it can have extensive repercussions across supply chains.
Adapting to disruption is an overlooked area of public and private life. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in the UK recently produced a report entitled ‘Adapting Institutions to Climate Change’ in which it concluded that many UK institutions are poorly prepared to adapt. ‘UK projections suggest warmer, drier summers and warmer wetter winters. The consequences are likely to be profound, even devastating with more extreme events – floods, drought and heat waves – coupled with sea level rises’.
The organisation offers a ten-point check list to be followed by all organisations. But it also goes further in suggesting that an ‘adaptation test’ should be integrated into
public and private decision making and that the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 should be amended to impose an adaptation duty on public bodies (which is already the case in Scotland).
What’s all this got to do with green ICT? Well with no planes flying in the UK you can bet that the use of videoconferencing shot up this week. Vendors are seeing the promotional opportunity and sending out information on their online collaboration services. In the long term there are many more opportunities for ICT to help companies negotiate their way around travel, logistics and supply chain disruption with better information, real-time responses, alternative solutions, etc.
Of course, in the case of Eyjafjallajokull it’s actually helping to reduce the emissions from flying and getting us used to the idea of doing without, so not all bad (unless you’re stuck abroad).