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ICTs: Do they contribute to increased carbon emissions?


  • Moyer, Jonathan D.
  • Hughes, Barry B.


There is much evidence that the deployment of information and communications technologies (ICTs) can improve economic productivity, reduce energy intensity and exert downward pressure on renewable energy costs. While significant insights have been revealed about each of these effects in isolation, literature has not established their combined implications for carbon emissions. This article uses the International Futures (IFs) integrated assessment system ( to explore the dynamic impacts of ICT on interacting global systems, including economic and energy systems, and resultant carbon emissions. First, it reviews the literature on the various impacts of ICT; next, it extracts relationships from previously existing quantitative studies on the subject; third, it explains the addition of these relationships to the IFs structure; fourth, it explores the implications of the acceleration of ICT penetration; finally, it frames a range of uncertainty around the analysis through scenarios. The authors argue that ICT can have a downward impact on overall carbon emissions across a 50-year time horizon. However, the net impact of ICT is limited, and if policy makers are concerned with substantial reductions in overall stocks of carbon in the atmosphere, our model shows that ICT promotion must be coupled a global price on carbon.

Suggested Citation

  • Moyer, Jonathan D. & Hughes, Barry B., 2012. "ICTs: Do they contribute to increased carbon emissions?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 79(5), pages 919-931.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:tefoso:v:79:y:2012:i:5:p:919-931
    DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2011.12.005

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    Cited by:

    1. Feng Guo & Xiaojun Wang & Mei Song & Yifei Wei & Olga Ormond & Martin Collier, 2016. "Greening the NetFPGA Reference Router," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(7), pages 1-21, June.
    2. Hurmekoski, Elias & Hetemäki, Lauri, 2013. "Studying the future of the forest sector: Review and implications for long-term outlook studies," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 17-29.
    3. Salahuddin, Mohammad & Alam, Khorshed & Ozturk, Ilhan, 2016. "The effects of Internet usage and economic growth on CO2 emissions in OECD countries: A panel investigation," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1226-1235.
    4. Proskuryakova, Liliana N. & Ermolenko, Georgy V., 2019. "The future of Russia’s renewable energy sector: Trends, scenarios and policies," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 1670-1686.
    5. Zhou, Xiaoyong & Zhou, Dequn & Wang, Qunwei & Su, Bin, 2019. "How information and communication technology drives carbon emissions: A sector-level analysis for China," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 380-392.
    6. Jonathan D. Moyer & Mark Eshbaugh & Jessica Rettig, 2017. "Cost analysis of global road traffic death prevention: Forecasts to 2050," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 35(6), pages 745-757, November.
    7. Taha Zaghdoudi, 2017. "Internet usage, renewable energy, electricity consumption and economic growth : Evidence from developed countries," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 37(3), pages 1612-1619.
    8. Cantore, Nicola, 2012. "Sustainability of the energy sector in the Mediterranean region," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 423-430.
    9. Laura-Diana RADU, 2016. "The impact of auditing on green information and communication technologies," The Audit Financiar journal, Chamber of Financial Auditors of Romania, vol. 14(134), pages 217-217, January.
    10. Galvin, Ray, 2015. "The ICT/electronics question: Structural change and the rebound effect," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 23-31.
    11. Antonio Fernández-Portillo & Manuel Almodóvar-González & José Luís Coca-Pérez & Héctor Valentín Jiménez-Naranjo, 2019. "Is Sustainable Economic Development Possible Thanks to the Deployment of ICT?," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(22), pages 1-15, November.


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