New ICT standards needed to survive climate change: UN

The ICT industry needs to develop new standards to strengthen infrastructure and improve collaboration between service and infrastructure providers if it wants to survive climate change, according to a new report.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

A new report by the by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union (ITU), has published a report warning the global information and communication technology (ICT) industry that it should adopt a range of actions if it wants to survive the long-term effects of climate change.

The 'Resilient Pathways' report (PDF), which was created in partnership with UNFCCC and UNESCO, suggests that the ICT sector should consider the long and short-term effects of climate change and design an articulated adaptation strategy and integrate actions at the international, national, sectoral and local levels to remain resilient.

According to ITU's secretary general, Hamadoun Touré, 'climate resilient' innovation within the ICT sector should be a priority for the long-term future of the industry.

"Mainstreaming climate-resilient innovation in research and development needs to become a priority," said Touré. "We need to foster a new, more flexible mindset and new learning processes to take into account robustness in the face of climate change impact when designing these fundamental technologies."

The report recommends a number of adaptive actions based on the principle of resilience.

It highlights the need for improvements in telecommunication service coverage, particularly in locations vulnerable to climate change impacts. It also recommends the development of new work to strengthen the resilience of ICT infrastructure.

Additionally, it recommends the implementation of novel approaches to improve diversity and interoperability of systems, including virtualisation, server networks, and system backup, in order to ensure intra-sector redundancy and the continuity of services and operations during climatic disturbances.

The climatic disturbances it lists include increases in average temperatures, increases of extreme weather events, heat-waves, and heavy rainfall — all of which it says have the potential to impact ICT infrastructure.

"The analysis ... has established that climate change constitutes a serious threat to the sector, as both acute and chronic impacts can disrupt the efficiency, operational and cost structure of infrastructure and service providers, and affect negatively millions of users that rely on highly diffused ICT services around the globe," the report said.

The report lists a range of suggested actions to combat its proposed negative effects of climate change.

These include decoupling communications infrastructure from electric grid infrastructure; employing backup power sources at mobile network towers; placing telecommunications cables underground where possible; and developing high-speed broadband and wireless services for low-density, rural areas.

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