Rethinking digitalization and climate: don’t predict, mitigate

Daria Gritsenko, Jon Aaen, Bent Flyvbjerg

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Digitalization is a core component of the green transition. Today’s focus is on quantifying and predicting the climate effects of digitalization through various life-cycle assessments and baseline scenario methodologies. Here we argue that this is a mistake. Most attempts at prediction are based on three implicit assumptions: (a) the digital carbon footprint can be quantified, (b) business-as-usual with episodic change leading to a new era of stability, and (c) investments in digitalization will be delivered within the cost, timeframe, and benefits described in their business cases. We problematize each assumption within the context of digitalization and argue that the digital carbon footprint is inherently unpredictable. We build on uncertainty literature to show that even if you cannot predict, you can still mitigate. On that basis, we propose to rethink practice on the digital carbon footprint from prediction to mitigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
Journalnpj Climate Action
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2024


  • Climate-change mitigation
  • Climate-change policy


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