01 February 2021

How is the digitalization of daily life impacting climate change?

IIASA researcher Charlie Wilson has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) grant to study how the digitalization of our everyday lives impacts climate change and to explore how it can be steered to help, rather than hinder climate action.

© NatmacStock | Dreamstime.com

© NatmacStock | Dreamstime.com

Tackling climate change requires changes across all areas of our daily lives, from how we use transport and consume food, to our homes and how we use energy. Meanwhile, the digitalization of everyday life is happening rapidly around us – from video conferencing to smartphone apps that assist almost every type of human activity. The iDODDLE (Impacts of Digitalized Daily Life on Climate Change) project, funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant, will systematically investigate how these changes could help reduce carbon emissions to support policymakers in addressing climate change.

“As the recent ‘The World in 2050’ study makes clear, the digitalization of daily life is a double-edged sword for climate change. Digitalization can help us understand, manage, and reduce carbon emissions… or it could lead to runaway growth in emissions if energy-hungry practices become deeply embedded in our everyday lives,” says Wilson, who is jointly associated with IIASA and the University of East Anglia’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Until now, the pervasive digitalization of daily life and its impact on emissions has not been studied systematically and is poorly understood. The iDoddle project aims to address this by using an inter-disciplinary approach to determine the conditions under which digitalized everyday life across the domains of transport, food, home, and energy, has beneficial or adverse impacts on climate change. The project will draw on two new and cross-cutting sources of primary data collection – a sample of 80 living lab households, and a longitudinal online survey panel of 6,000 respondents in Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

Wilson will work with a range of academic and industry partners involved in digital technology and services and continue longstanding collaborations with IIASA researchers to work on improving how the effects of digitalization are represented in energy and climate modeling. The aim is to develop an evidence-based program of action to support policymaking to ensure that digitalized daily life helps tackle climate change, including the quantitative systems analysis of energy and material flows.

“Digitalization offers many opportunities to reduce carbon emissions from our everyday lives. However, we need to steer it towards beneficial climate outcomes through governance as well as our own choices and behaviors,” Wilson concludes.

IIASA researchers have been awarded a number of ERC grants over the last year to fund frontier research in the fields of equitable pension policies, climate change and population trends, crowd-driven artificial intelligence, and negative emissions technologies.

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Last edited: 01 February 2021


Charlie Wilson

Senior Research Scholar Sustainable Service Systems Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Senior Research Scholar Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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