Big data and climate change share one important characteristic: Both are changing the course of history. Carbon dioxide levels have not been this high in 800,000 years, and the amount of data being generated today is unprecedented. The question at the recent Wharton conference on “Sustainability in the Age of Big Data” was how rapidly advancing information technologies can be brought together to forestall the worst ravages of global climate change. As Gary Survis, CMO of Big Data company Syncsort, IGEL senior fellow and conference moderator, noted, “It is rare that there is a confluence of two seismic events as transformative as climate change and big data. It presents amazing opportunities, as well as responsibilities.” Coming to terms with the scope of big data is a challenge, but the promise is enormous. Big data has the potential to revolutionize the two industries that generate the most carbon dioxide – energy and agriculture. Machine-to-machine communication can help reduce energy demands and increase the viability of renewable power sources. On farms, data from the molecular level may help give rise to a new green revolution, and sensors in satellites, farmland, trucks and grocery stores promise to reduce waste industry-wide. Important questions remain. Can big data be used to influence people’s behavior without manipulating them? Can private enterprise capitalize on big data’s possibilities without riding roughshod over the rights of those who generate the data? And can the high-tech innovations already underway in the developed world help solve the problems of those most in need? How well we answer these questions will determine whether we can realize the historic potential of “Sustainability in the Age of Big Data.” Sustainability in the Age of Big Data