Today’s information driven society goes under the radar in terms of its dependence on fossil fuels. Despite producing more emissions that the airline sector, it’s something we don’t particularly discuss or remark.
To calculate true electricity consumption for ICT we would need to include the following:
- Data centers that have become giant warehouses for super computers
- Broadband and wireless networks
- The countless devices like laptops, cell phones, digital TV etc
- The manufacture of ICT sector hardware
However, we don’t measure in this way. All industries and organizations that do calculate their emissions do so based on their core activity. For most businesses ICT is a support function, so it gets lumped together with other things like office power supply.
When you think about it every employee that surfs or works across a variety of devices generates carbon emissions. Everything that is connected to the web must be stored somewhere and transported through the network to and from the user.
Then there’s the growing number of organizations and industries that work directly with ICT. They often overlook measuring energy supply for data stored in the cloud - it’s in the cloud so outside their own operations.
But for cloud and data center operators that store data, it’s not a new question. The biggest tech businesses in the world, such as Google and Microsoft, actively work to reduce climate impact by using green electricity and maximizing energy consumption. Likewise, operators and hardware manufacturers.
The problem is that companies make big investments in old technology. For example, energy ineffective data centers built in places that are dependent on fossil fuels. Plus, for businesses that operate their own servers, the energy supply or energy source of each individual server is not a pressing question – but added up they represent the world’s biggest climate offender.
So what can we do about it? A carbon tax would be an obvious solution. However, we believe that the first step should be measuring the problem. How big is your ICT carbon dioxide impact if you include data traffic and cloud services? By putting requirements on data center and cloud solution operators we can make big carbon savings, quickly. As much as up to half.
We at EcoDataCenter work to change the norm for how data centers and cloud services are built and run. We believe the norm for green data centers – for alla data centers! – should be to minimize carbon emissions, coupled with a requirement to reuse the excess heat in a way that balances the emissions to zero. At the very least. And it’s already possible today – the only problem is that the issue goes under the radar.