Systems thinking and efficiency under emissions constraints: addressing rebound effects in digital innovation and policy

Widdicks, Kelly; Lucivero, Federica; Samuel, Gabrielle; Croxatto, Lucas Somavilla; Smith, Marcia Tavares; Holter, Carolyn Ten; Berners-Lee, Mike; Blair, Gordon S. ORCID:; Jirotka, Marina; Knowles, Bran; Sorrell, Steven; Rivera, Miriam Börjesson; Cook, Caroline; Coroamă, Vlad C.; Foxon, Timothy J.; Hardy, Jeffrey; Hilty, Lorenz M.; Hinterholzer, Simon; Penzenstadler, Birgit. 2023 Systems thinking and efficiency under emissions constraints: addressing rebound effects in digital innovation and policy. Patterns, 4 (2), 100679. 10, pp.

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Innovations and efficiencies in digital technology have lately been depicted as paramount in the green transition to enable the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, both in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and the wider economy. This, however, fails to adequately account for rebound effects that can offset emission savings and, in the worst case, increase emissions. In this perspective, we draw on a transdisciplinary workshop with 19 experts from carbon accounting, digital sustainability research, ethics, sociology, public policy, and sustainable business to expose the challenges of addressing rebound effects in digital innovation processes and associated policy. We utilize a responsible innovation approach to uncover potential ways forward for incorporating rebound effects in these domains, concluding that addressing ICT-related rebound effects ultimately requires a shift from an ICT efficiency-centered perspective to a “systems thinking” model, which aims to understand efficiency as one solution among others that requires constraints on emissions for ICT environmental savings to be realized.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pollution (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2666-3899
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: ICT, environmental impacts, rebound effects, systems thinking, emissions constraints, digital innovation, policy
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Computer Science
Date made live: 03 Nov 2023 15:35 +0 (UTC)

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