I’ve recently become really interested in the work of Brad Allenby at Arizona State University. There is certainly a significant contribution GIS can make (and in fact is already making) in the evolving field of Earth Systems Engineering and Management. This is a presentation Allenby gave at MIT in October 2007.
In a new report titled “IDC Predictions 2009: An Economic Pressure Cooker Will Accelerate the IT Industry Transformation,” IDC predicts an that 2009 is going to be an interesting year for IT spending. One bright spot is green technology, which the report says “will have a good year, disguised as ‘cost cutting'” with “good demand for green tech that can deliver near-term savings.” You can download the full report here.
What exactly is a green technology? Depends on who you ask. I define it very broadly as any technology that can be used to reduce negative impacts on the environment. With a myriad of potential uses for better resource management, to me GIS clearly falls in to the category of green technology.
My coworker Jim Baumann recently wrote the following introduction to an ESRI Best Practices e-book called GIS is a Green Technology. The paper will be published on the ESRI web site in January 2009.
GIS Supports Global Green Initiatives
With the growing awareness and unease among large segments of the population that remedial action must be taken to resolve the many environmental crises we now face, GIS solutions are currently being implemented around the world that provide the technological and scientific support necessary to create programs and processes that return our planet to a more sustainable and balanced level of use and quality of life.
Whether increasing the efficiency of fleet vehicles by optimizing standard routes and subsequently reducing fuel consumption or determining the optimum location for a wind farm to produce energy with minimal pollution, GIS provides the quantified information and analytical capabilities necessary to make decisions that can both support growth and reduce consumption.
The visualization capabilities of a GIS afford a unique way of examining things that promotes creative “out-of-the-box” thinking; providing insight and solutions that are not so apparent in written reports and tabular data. Often, an existing GIS implementation stimulates the catharsis needed to modify existing business practices or apply new ones that lead to savings in both cost and resources.
The stories included in this e-book detail GIS-based applications for innovative, sustainable solutions to many of today’s common environmental problems. Cascade County, Montana uses GIS to map the optimum locations for wind farms and promote investment in this “green energy” source. Buffalo, New York known as the “City of Trees” maintains its urban forest inventory with GIS. Air pollution in Jakarta, Indonesia is severe. In 2004, 46 percent of all illness in the city was respiratory-related. Backed by GIS-based scientific studies, the government has implemented an ambitious plan to improve air quality. The release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere is the fundamental cause of global warming. GIS is being used in the study and implementation of CO2 sequestration programs, which either captures the pollutant at its source or through the planting of vegetation to absorb it. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers used GIS to restore the natural habitat of the Middle Rio Grande River in New Mexico and the city of Boston, Massachusetts is implementing an ambitious solar energy program, using GIS to calculate the solar radiation available on the city rooftops.
As ESRI President Jack Dangermond has often said, “The application of GIS is only limited by the imagination.” GIS is a Green Technology provides an introduction into the powerful capabilities of the software when applied to environmental and sustainability issues, as well as the ingenuity of those developing these innovative applications.
At the request of Congress, The National Academies has launched a suite of activities to examine a wide range of issues associated with global climate change. Called America’s Climate Choices, the project will examine the science and technology challenges as well as provide advice on actions and strategies the nation can take to respond.
I am a strong proponent of the value of GIS in helping us to better understand and respond to climate change. Geospatial technologies will certainly be well-represented in America’s Climate Choices, thanks to the appointment of the Honorable James E. Geringer to the Committee on America’s Climate Choices. The former Governor of Wyoming, Geringer joined Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI) as director of policy and public sector strategies. Geringer and other members of the Committee will be responsible for providing overall direction, coordination, and integration of the on the full America’s Climate Choices suite of activities.
To learn more about this important study, visit americasclimatechoices.org.