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Using information technology against climate change

Technology companies from around the world are gathered as part of the U.N. climate summit in Cancun, Mexico this week. The tech wizards say they can be a powerful force for fighting climate change.

In Cancun today, dozens of companies from Intel to H-P to Microsoft signed onto a statement saying information and communications technology can go a long way toward the deep cuts in greenhouse gases that scientists say we need to make in order to avoid major climate disruption in the coming decades.

Microsoft’s Steve Lippman says a study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company shows that’s not a futuristic fantasy.

“Using existing I.T. technology – so, nothing new or science fiction – the world could save about 15 percent of its carbon emissions, through effective use of those technologies.”

A 15 percent cut would be more than the greenhouse gas output of the entire European Union.

Lippman says smart grid and transportation technologies that boost energy efficiency are available right now. He also points to a Microsoft project called Hohm. It’s a set of free online tools to help homeowners analyze and boost their energy efficiency.

For the long-term view, the so-called Guadalajara Declaration also promises the tech sector will focus on developing what it calls “transformative low-carbon solutions”: as yet undeveloped new technologies that will replace fossil fuels at the heart of the global economy.

Liam Moriarty started with KPLU in 1996 as our freelance correspondent in the San Juan Islands. He’s been our full-time Environment Reporter since November, 2006. In between, Liam was News Director at Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon for three years and reported for a variety of radio, print and web news sources in the Northwest. He's covered a wide range of environment issues, from timber, salmon and orcas to oil spills, land use and global warming. Liam is an avid sea kayaker, cyclist and martial artist.