A group of international researchers, including Trent’s Dr. Anne Pasek, is embarking on a project to determine the carbon footprint of the Internet, thanks to a $200,000 USD grant by the Internet Society Foundation.
“The information and communications technology (ICT) sector, particularly digital networks and digital communications, is rapidly growing. As such, its carbon emissions are going to be crucial in determining whether or not we succeed in meeting our global climate targets,” says Professor Pasek, Canada research chair in Media, Culture and the Environment at Trent.
The Decarbonizing the Subsea Cable Network project will be a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to assess the carbon footprint of the fiber-optic subsea cable network, which currently carries 99% of transoceanic Internet traffic. The project is an initiative of the Global Citizen Working Group of SubOptic, the association of the subsea cable industry, and the first project of the newly established SubOptic Foundation.
As one of the project’s primary investigators, Prof. Pasek will be taking a critical look at the role of digital infrastructures and their contributions to climate change, as well as ways in which we can reform these systems.
“This research is important because we don't actually have a very comprehensive idea of the carbon intensity of the Internet,” says Prof. Pasek. “This is a particularly timely project considering the global surge in the use of digital technologies and the Internet in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Interdisciplinary research approach
Prof. Pasek believes an interdisciplinary approach (something Trent is renowned for) to this research will be instrumental to the project.
“It's important to be able to move through different kinds of disciplinary spaces to think about complex infrastructural systems, their politics and their environmental impacts – to mix methods and lead in areas that might be unfamiliar, but are nevertheless essential to holding the different parts of the puzzle together,” explains Prof. Pasek. “This approach will allow us to fully explore of the carbon intensity of the subsea network and the impact this will have, not only on the coastal communities that host these infrastructures, but the planet as a whole.”
Learn more about Dr. Anne Pasek and her new Canada research chair appointment at Trent University.