Tuesday, December 29, 2015

According to a study spearheaded by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) for the Carbon Trust, mobile technology in North America and Europe is saving an astounding 180 million tons in carbon emissions per year. The report marks the first time mobile tech’s impact has been meticulously studied, and notes this current reduction impact is about five times greater than the cumulative carbon footprint of mobile network operation. This reduction is expected to further increase about three times before the decade’s end.

The study, entitled the Mobile Carbon Impact report, surveyed 4,000 smartphone users in the U.S., UK, Mexico, South Korea, and Spain, and found many were using their devices to reduce personal carbon emissions. Participants also noted enthusiasm about further reducing their carbon footprints.

“We are just at the beginning of an accelerating adoption curve, where businesses, governments and society recognise the wealth of possibilities offered by the technology to do things differently,” said GeSI chairman Luis Neves. He remarked that the report indicates the definitive impact mobile has made on the global economy, and that it’s subsequently helping to create a more sustainable world.

The Results

The study looked at 60 carbon-saving mechanisms in 10 categories and evaluated numerous mobile tech uses, including machine-to-machine (M2M) uses and Internet of Things (IoT) connections. Biggest savings came from efficient building and transport operations, including cutting energy and fuel usage, as well as lifestyle and work changes. For example, 84 percent of smartphone users who drive a car use satnav apps to avoid traffic and otherwise plan more efficient trips.

Almost half of those surveyed said they purchase digital rather than print products, such as newspapers and books, while more than half of car drivers surveyed said they would consider using a device that reduced car insurance costs if they drove in a safer, more eco-friendly manner. Some 40 percent would consider using a self-driving vehicle in the future, and a little less than half of respondents noted they would be more likely to use public transportation options if they had a mobile app that told them exactly when the next train or bus would arrive.

Potential lifestyle changes included 68 percent of smartphone users saying they were willing to use apps that controlled heating and cooling within their homes, with 63 percent saying they would use mobile for access to public services. Nearly half said they would replace their debit and credit cards as well as cash with their smartphones, and 63 percent noted they would make non-emergency doctor visits over video calls rather than driving to the facility. And these are just some of the potential lifestyle applications.

The Conclusion

Andie Stephens, senior consultant at the Carbon Trust, remarked that the “urgency” of the environmental challenges the world currently faces means expediting adoption of mobile mechanisms contributing to carbon emission reduction. Stephens notes such accelerated growth would also help developing countries, as it would assist emerging economies in leapfrogging over use of various high-carbon infrastructures.

The Carbon Trust is an independent company dedicated to promoting sustainable economies. GeSI is a network of over 30 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies and organizations around the world providing resources and information for environmental and social sustainability.