Rampant BSOD’s expected in a warmer future?
Guest essay by Eric Worrall
In a mind aching exercise in recursion, the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union has released a report based on computer projections of future climate change, to provide direction on how climate change will affect computers.
According to the report:
“That path forward must be low-carbon and high-resilience. We must move on curbing emissions to mitigate climate effects and we must move to adapt to the climate impacts we know are coming. Technology and ICT in particular is a powerful force that can put us squarely on the path to a climate resilient future.”
Computer infrastructure owners are advised to find ways to reduce emissions, and are warned they will have to prepare for greater climatic extremes – so where possible, cables should be buried underground, and short range radio links should be considered to improve resilience. The report also mentions the risk of supply chain disruption, and risks to support personnel forced to endure severe weather while travelling to perform their duties.
Some other interesting highlights:-
Plans to expand UN bureaucracy:-
“In the current setting, UNESCO is working towards the establishment of a Climate Change Consortium with the aim of supporting the professionalization of public and private decision-makers. Within the context of global development, the Consortium will implement a leadership training programme on best practices and comprehensive decision-making on scientific and managerial issues related to sustainable development, its economic and social aspects.”
Section 1.1.6 mentions changes in snow and ice
“The IPCC Fourth Assessment Synthesis Report does not specifically mention ice storms in the context of climate change but it is mentioned in Reference20 as “an extreme event with a large spatial scale (as in an ice storm or windstorm) which can have an exaggerated, disruptive impact due to the systemic societal dependence on electricity transmission and distribution networks”.
and in section 4.2.7:-
“No information could be found on the change of risk of ice storms and heavy snowfall due to climate change. However, it seems likely that extreme events are increasing as a consequence of climate change. A recent example of the consequences of ice storm is noted in the New York area. “
So no “end of snow” prediction in this report, at least.
Section 5.1 contains a suggestion that the electricity grid may be less reliable in the future:-
“Decouple communication infrastructure from electric grid infrastructure to the extent possible, and make both more robust, resilient, and redundant. “
As I said, most of the report appears to be general advice to make computer and communication infrastructure more resilient – increasing backup power supply capacity and duration, making linkages between systems more robust, improving adaptability to outages, that kind of thing.
I can’t help feeling though, that the UN is missing the real risk to global IT and communications infrastructure, by focusing attention on the climate non-issue. The real risk being the very real possibility of another Carrington event, which, when it occurs, will destroy much of the world’s electronic infrastructure in just a few seconds.