Digitalization and the Decoupling Debate. Can ICT help to reduce environmental impacts while the economy keeps growing?

Digitalization can increase resource and energy productivities. However, the production and usage of  ICT require materials and energy, and the application of ICT fosters economic growth. This article by Tilman Santarius, Johanna Pohl and Steffen Lange in the Journal Sustainability examines whether digitalization helps or hinders an absolute decoupling of environmental throughput from economic growth. The paper combines the literature on “green IT” and “ICT for green” with studies on the relationship between economic growth, technological change, and environmental throughput. Comparing the mitigating and the aggravating impacts of digitalization, we conclude that a more active political and societal shaping of the process of digitalization is needed to make ICT work for a sufficient absolute decoupling.