On Earth Day 2016, There Is More to Be Done

ProjectARCC welcomes Linda Tadic, CEO of Digital Bedrock, on our first anniversary. A year ago today a group of archivists came together to discuss our profession’s future and the Earth’s future. Happy anniversary and happy Earth Day!

At the Paris Climate Change talks (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries signed a non-binding agreement to lower their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2100. While the world celebrated the unanimous vote, and there is no denying the importance the conference had in raising the profile of climate change, it is clear that the agreement didn’t go far enough.

COP21’s goal: Get countries to promise to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) so the global temperature won’t rise above 2° C (3.6° F) by 2100. That temperature increase is scientifically accepted as the threshold for catastrophic climate change. Prior to the conference, countries submitted the GHG emission levels they believed they could achieve (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs). However, the INDCs are disappointing and outright deadly: if countries only achieve what they propose, the global temperature will rise 3.5° C (6.3° F) by 2100. A critical part of the agreement states that countries will aim to lower their GHG emissions lower than their INDC, but those are just words with no actionable steps behind them.

A minimum of 55 countries must sign the agreement on Earth Day 2016 for the agreement to become binding, and there is no guarantee the minimum signatures will be achieved. The US Supreme Court recently voted to put a stay on President Obama’s regulation of coal plants pending the results of a lower court ruling, which puts the US involvement in COP21 at risk. This decision caused large GHG emitting countries such as China and India to doubt the US seriousness to the Paris agreement; they had agreed to sign only if the US showed serious efforts.

Climate change is too serious an issue to be left to national governments to solve alone. Where positive change is occurring is with more nimble entities: local governments (states/provinces, cities), industry, individuals, and investors. Investors are increasingly not investing in oil and coal, but in renewable energy since that’s the future in this New Climate Economy. Aviation, transportation, and ICT industries are enacting technological efficiencies to decrease their industries’ GHG emissions.

Archives intersect with ICT through our use of hardware and energy. Our hardware and network choices in how we store and manage digital content, the energy devices used, and our digital preservation actions impact the environment.

In 2015, I gave a series of presentations on the environmental impact of digital preservation at conferences for SEAPAVAA (Singapore), IASA (Paris), and AMIA (Portland, Oregon). The slides and background research and notes are available for download at the Digital Bedrock website. The documents will be updated from time to time with the recent version date noted.

What we do as individuals and archival custodians can impact the wider world. In a talk at UCLA on January 12, 2016, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and the UN Envoy for Climate Change, referred to “climate justice,” eg, climate change + social injustice. Fighting climate change is a personal, political, and social battle that must be fought on all fronts at our disposal, including the choices we make with our technology and preserving our collections.

— Linda Tadic

Questions? Comments? Email: ltadic@digitalbedrock.com

 

 

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