IT Must Weather Climate Change

By Samuel Greengard

A warming planet and melting ice sheets have generated plenty of news stories lately. By now, it’s clear to many of us that we’re living in a world in which the climate has changed—and continues to do so. The New York Times recently presented a map of the U.S. that shows these changes all too clearly. Already, we’re seeing the effects of scarcer water in dry regions, heavier rains in wet areas, and longer and more persistent heat waves—along with increasingly severe wildfires.

This past winter’s Polar Vortex and super hurricanes such as Sandy are likely to become the new normal in this changing world. And while the focus is typically on how these events play out for the general population, it’s also clear that businesses—and their IT departments—will be forced to cope with significant climates changes in the decades ahead.

It will be a stormy situation for CIOs and other business leaders. Cloud VPN and mobile connectivity firm Pertino reports that 66 percent of employees were affected by extreme weather last winter. This ranged from being stranded somewhere without remote access to office files and applications (50 percent) to the office being shut down and IT systems being offline altogether (27 percent). In fact, many IT organizations were unprepared: 21 percent of stranded employees requested remote access, but IT could not provide it in time.

In an era of 24/7 connectivity, businesses must find ways to keep key systems and processes running—even during the worse of circumstances. And those circumstances will likely get a lot worse. New research shows that a major portion of the Antarctic ice sheet will melt over the next couple of centuries. According to scientists, the situation has reached “the point of no return.”

Among other things, this massive melting means water levels will rise in coastal areas by as much as 1 to 3 feet within the next century. Translation: If your business or IT operations are located in Miami or parts of New York City, you will be underwater. At this point it’s still tempting to take the Alfred E. Neuman approach. But IT must begin to take steps now: go as green as possible with IT systems; promote remote work to cut down on commuting; start planning to move facilities from low-lying areas; and ensure that you have the tools and technologies in place to weather the changes and keep the business running.

About the Author

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, “Doing Business in a Digital Moment,” click here. 

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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