Crisis Counseling: Is Climate Change the New Y2K?

Credit: Konjin in Pantervel Its a funny old world. 

Vinnie Mirchandani thinks the IT industry is hyping up climate change.  He thinks they stampede their customers into panic buying of strategic IT solutions for what might not be a problem at all. All the while, the industry coaxes hapless regulators into passing laws on climate change that require IT investment. He compares this to the Y2K response:

Unfortunately, I see the same hysteria building around sustainability and green stuff. Doomsday scenarios. Vendor selling toolboxes when a hammer may suffice. Vendors with hammers that would break no matter how small the nail. Vendors lobbying regulators to require investments. Guilt based value propositions.

Nice gig eh?

Except, contrast that with what Greenpeace said this week:

The first results of the Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge expose the IT industry’s inadequate leadership in tackling climate change despite its claim to have the immense potential to enable 15 percent cuts or more in all global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.  …… To really deliver on this potential the IT industry needs to look beyond just cutting its own emissions and deliver climate solutions for the rest of the economy.

During the Y2K era Vinnie was at Gartner providing advice to clients on how to deal with the threat. His concsience bothers him still:

I have been asked a few times since 1999 – did Gartner hype up the Y2k problem for its own benefit? And my response is – well, it did shake and wake people up and eventually make Y2K a relative non-event. But, in retrospect, I do wish we had helped clients protect more against the “greenwashing” that went on back then.

It strikes me as a rather odd way to view a successful response. Dare to imagine we might successfully do the same to arrest climate change?

There is an obvious cynicism trap we need to avoid here. 

Fortunately, Vinnie has the right instincts for the transparency needed to protect the integrity of the public & private sector climate change response:

This time the stakes are even higher. But we have a bigger set of watchdogs now. Us bloggers. I hope we don’t just report the problem. Or worse, just  hype it.

Hopefully we can learn from the Y2K experience without deriving cynicism from the virtues of preparedness & mitigation. Glad you’re part of the conversation Vinnie.

PS    Do please stop by my ZDNet stand: this week I blogged on Greenpeace Cool IT, Sun & Symantec as an example of a new breed of corporate  sustainability leadership.

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2 responses to “Crisis Counseling: Is Climate Change the New Y2K?

  1. what’s this broad expectation of “IT industry” to help the rest of the world? what can a storage or a virus check or hr vendor do to help an airline reduce emissions or a chemical company become greener? of course there are control systems, sensors etc – that part of our industry can help – and I am all for those solutions for my kids and yours sakes. But IT vendors which just help account for emissions or carbon footprints are not really solving global warming or other environmental challenges. They are adding to the cost. Which was my point. During Y2K plenty of IT vendors opportunistically took advantage of the panic – they did not re mediate much, but piled on. That is what I want to see avoided.

  2. The broad definition is a real problem but its how the problem has been approached by McKinsey, GESI etc in SMART 2020 and now NGOs and policy makers have taken that lead. I think we will soon see sgmentation of delivery and expectation as people are educated.

    As for accounting — I hear your point of view but if you look back at the Bali action plan in preparation for COP15 they have prioritized Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) as critical to the success opf agreeing a global deal and to implement it. Without MRV – simply put, the carbon market can’t emerge and then you really are in tough territory.

    On Y2k — I’m interested, There must be some good post mortem studies.?Its hard to believe it was all a hoax so there most be some contium between being irresponsible in doing nothing AND being duped into over investing in an exaggerated problem.

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