Caroline Spelman, the UK Environment Secretary, has warned that climate change will impact the capabilities of ICT in the UK. In particular, a warmer climate will have an impact on wireless transmission, which is directly dependent on temperature. More wireless masts may be needed to cope, but tower structures themselves may also be impacted by flooding damage to foundations and storm damage to above-ground infrastructure.
The comments came at the launch of a cross government report which outlines the challenges to the transport, energy, water and ICT sectors. ‘Climate Resilient Infrastructure’ sets out what action needs to be taken by infrastructure owners and operators, regulators, insurers and Government.
The impact on ICT as a whole is critical, since a recent study from environmental consultancy AEA on the interactions of infrastructure said that five sectors (energy, ICT, transport, waste and water) were all, to some extent, interdependent but that each was absolutely dependent on the provision of energy and ICT.
But Spelman’s report points out that the ICT industry has an opportunity to play a leading role in increasing climate resilience by developing new technologies. One example given is a project by the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London to use wireless sensor networks to assess the condition of existing infrastructure.
The report is a useful reminder of the role of ICT in climate change. The industry is at the centre of business so has a significant role to play in reducing climate-changing emissions across the economy. But the central role of ICT also means that it needs to be resilient to the inevitable change in climate. Not only does the basic infrastructure – primarily communications capabilities - need to stand up to the changes, but there is going to be huge demand from companies to ensure their ICT-dependent businesses can withstand the short-term events and long-term implications of changes in weather and their consequences.