The Grey Side of ICT

Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Vol. 22, No. 5, pp. 509-523, 2002

15 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2011

Date Written: October 30, 2002


The information and communication technologies (ICT) have a profound impact on economy and environment. The performance improvements in ICT lead to increased consumption of ICT products and services, which had numerous environmental im-plications on different levels.

The author points to the analogy between the rebound effects in energy sector and the growth effects in ICT. A multilevel taxonomy of rebound effects is taken from the energy economics literature in order to structure the discussion on the environmental implications of ICT. Rebound effect studies from the energy sector can provide valu-able insights into the causes of the environmental impacts from ICT.

The paper distinguishes two levels of environmental impacts from ICT. The first re-lates to the life cycle of ICT hardware. The second relates to the way the ICT applica-tions are being used. The paper reveals the complexity of the environmental impacts and stresses the decisive role of human behaviour. The issues presented in the paper are highly relevant to any decision makers, who tend to place too many expectations on ICT without being aware of the potential environmental implications

Keywords: information and communication technologies, consumption, rebound effect, environmental impact

JEL Classification: Q2, J28

Suggested Citation

Plepys, Andrius, The Grey Side of ICT (October 30, 2002). Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Vol. 22, No. 5, pp. 509-523, 2002, Available at SSRN:

Andrius Plepys (Contact Author)

IIIEE, Lund University ( email )

Tegnersplatsen 4
Box 196
Lund, 22100
+46462220226 (Phone)
+46462220230 (Fax)


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