Systems thinking and efficiency under emissions constraints: Addressing rebound effects in digital innovation and policy
Reviewartikel, 2023

Innovations and efficiencies in digital technology have lately been depicted as paramount in the green transition to enable the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, both in the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and the wider economy. This, however, fails to adequately account for rebound effects that can offset emission savings and, in the worst case, increase emissions. In this perspective, we draw on a transdisciplinary workshop with 19 experts from carbon accounting, digital sustainability research, ethics, sociology, public policy, and sustainable business to expose the challenges of addressing rebound effects in digital innovation processes and associated policy. We utilize a responsible innovation approach to uncover potential ways forward for incorporating rebound effects in these domains, concluding that addressing ICT-related rebound effects ultimately requires a shift from an ICT efficiency-centered perspective to a “systems thinking” model, which aims to understand efficiency as one solution among others that requires constraints on emissions for ICT environmental savings to be realized.

rebound effects


environmental impacts

systems thinking


emissions constraints

digital innovation

DSML 1: Concept: Basic principles of a new data science output observed and reported


Kelly Widdicks

Lancaster University

Federica Lucivero

University of Oxford

Gabrielle Samuel

King's College London

Lucas Somavilla Croxatto

University of Oxford

University College London (UCL)

Marcia Tavares Smith

Lancaster University

Carolyn Ten Holter

University of Oxford

Mike Berners-Lee

Small World Consulting

Gordon S. Blair

Lancaster University

UK Centre For Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH)

Marina Jirotka

University of Oxford

Bran Knowles

Lancaster University

Steven Sorrell

University of Sussex

Miriam Börjesson Rivera

Uppsala universitet

Caroline Cook

Baillie Gifford

Vlad C. Coroamă

Technische Universität Berlin

Timothy J. Foxon

University of Sussex

Jeffrey Hardy

Imperial College London

Lorenz M. Hilty

Universität Zürich

Simon Hinterholzer

Borderstep Institute

Birgit Penzenstadler

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Interaktionsdesign och Software Engineering

Lappeenrannan-Lahden teknillinen yliopisto (LUT)


26663899 (eISSN)

Vol. 4 2 100679


Tvärvetenskapliga studier

Annan naturresursteknik






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