Everyday Computing, Features

Making Sense of Data

By Dr. Lyndell St. Ville- ICT Consultant

AN attractive aspect of using computers to tackle our problems is the ability to analyze and assess complicated systems comprising large numbers of inputs and data points. When these capabilities are harnessed to tackle ‘wicked problems’, such as climate change, there is a sense of using the appropriate tools to do the job.

As someone with an interest and background in Environmental Science, it is heartwarming to observe actions being taken to solve these wicked and complex problems — such as the hosting of a week-long workshop to deliberate on building sustainable climate change national greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory management systems taking place this week. This is useful and practical training because correctly assessing a mountain of data arising from a complicated system with complex interactions requires careful attention.

With these useful skills mastered, we should expect an end to unreasonably optimistic claims being reported by government officials. For example, last weekend’s edition of The VOICE newspaper (June 10, 2017) featured an article entitled ‘Renewable Energy Being Explored’. Within that otherwise-encouraging article was a curious claim from the Department of Sustainable Development and Energy that transitioning to a fleet of electric or hybrid vehicles would reduce our carbon footprint.

Unfortunately, such misconceptions are too common and should be corrected if we are to make progress. Even the previous Minister once suggested, mistakenly, that the melting of the Arctic ice-cap would lead to a rise in the sea-level. This is incorrect, since the Arctic ice is already floating on the sea, so its melting — like the ice in your favourite drink — will not cause an overflow or rise in water levels.

Because electric vehicles must still be charged with electricity, and LUCELEC does not yet provide energy from renewable sources, every electric vehicle will still be powered by fossil fuels. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious. Admittedly, there would be a slight improvement in our carbon footprint — in direct proportion to the relative efficiency of the LUCELEC generators — and better air quality in congested areas.

Until LUCELEC becomes a significant supplier of green energy from renewable sources, buying a fleet of expensive electric vehicles is unlikely to have the intended impact. For electric vehicles to reduce our reliance on non-renewable energy, they MUST also be charged from green-energy sources. If LUCELEC achieves the indicated goal of 16% renewable energy supply by 2020, then the benefit of any electric vehicle will only approximate 16% of their overall benefit.

We can take some steps to reduce our carbon footprints, including:
*) Using air conditioning systems at a less frigid temperature
*) Using trees and landscaping to help shade your homes and businesses
*) Driving less and walking more

In this era of climate change sceptics and foolish shortsightedness, we must be careful with the likely impact presented for changes that we make, and resist the urge for ‘Prius Politics’ where the need to show off takes precedence over a true desire to curb our impact. It is even worse when we proceed based on misunderstandings or mistreatment of the data.

To share your views, contact the author at: www.datashore.net or via The VOICE.
About the Author
Dr.Lyndell St. Ville is an ICT Consultant based in Saint Lucia. His expertise includes systems analysis, design, and security strengthening.

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