The idea of the International Center for Climate and Society (ICCS) grew out of a project of Lorenz Magaard, Wolf Dieter Grossmann, and Hans von Storch, described in IPRC Climate (Vol. 2, No. 1, p.12). The premise for the Center is that the New Information and Communication Technologies are turning our society into an “information society” with a “new economy” characterized by “globalization.” These technologies are eliminating ever more jobs in the mature industry, which uses energy and materials as its main resources. At the same time, across the globe, new companies are being founded that use information as their prime resource. The mature industry is thus being transformed by advanced information and communication technologies for gathering information, producing and distributing parts, products, and services. Examples of new information-based industries are seen in multimedia industries, cellular phone networks, genomics, and the health-products industry.
The transformation of mature industries and the rapid emergence of a new, information-based economy provide a unique opportunity for dealing with environmental problems arising from climate change. The challenge is to learn what societal adjustments to make based on this new economy in order to decrease present and future environmental problems. Making such adjustments while the economic restructuring and new developments are underway may allow certain environmental problems to be solved at little additional cost, and sometimes with gain.
Magaard and his group completed a study in which they used a systems model to test policies that capitalize on the new economy in order to help mitigate and adapt to climate fluctuations and climate change. They found several instances in which such policies enhanced economic growth and at the same time solved problems of adjustments once this economic metamorphosis had been completed. In other words, there is a rather small window of opportunity and that window is now.
Grossmann (UFZ Center for Environmental Research, Leipzig/Halle, Germany) gave examples of how such restructuring can be made cost effectively in industries that are most related to greenhouse gas emissions, namely, power plants, housing, transportation, and forestry. Speaking on “Using Economic Innovation for Mitigation of Global Climate Change,” Grossmann presented ways to reduce greenhouse gases in a cost effective manner by replacing the existing infrastructure with new technologies at the most strategic time in the life cycle of each industry. The group now plans to calculate both the cost effectiveness and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions expected from present large-scale economic restructuring.
The Center will conduct basic research to study the options and the costs and benefits associated with certain societal adjustments that make use of the information-based economy. A dynamical systems approach (e.g., Katok and Hasselblatt, 1995) will be used in this research to model interactions among the economy.