CO2 emissions, from streaming to cryptocurrencies also the Internet pollutes: server farms are in fact very greedy for energy.
The Coronavirus pandemic has made it clear how much Internet is indispensable in our lives. New technologies have in fact allowed anyone to keep in touch with friends and relatives, even during long periods of isolation, helped track the sick and provided useful information to protect themselves from contagion. Furthermore, they were indispensable to continue working and learning, with smart working and remote teaching. But how much it pollutes the Internet? How much in relation to CO2 emissions?
To try to answer this question is the Dataroom of Corriere della Sera, with the help of Milena Gabanelli: the web also pollutes, with a growing impact on CO2 emissions.
CO2 and energy for the web
Any technology that makes use of the network, be it a laptop or a server farm, needs consume energy for its functioning. In 2008, all digital technologies in the IT universe accounted for 2% of global CO2 emissions from electricity generation. Today they reached the 3.7% global and, according to recent estimates, they could reach 8.5% by 2025. Indeed, the study Assessing ICT Global Emissions Footprint expects growth of up to 14% by 2040.
In other words, the whole network of servers, computers and devices around the world produces a lot carbon dioxide as the total amount of a medium-large world nation.
However, the problem is not often perceived by users, also because it is not easy to notice the consumption of information devices. While a class C + refrigerator consumes up to 190 kWh in a year, and the expense is therefore clearly identifiable in the bill, recharge for 365 days one smartphone it does not require more than 4 kWh. Yet we forget how, in addition to charging the device, CO2 is produced for services connected to the smartphone, from hosting websites to server farms to save videos, images, applications and much more.
CO2 emissions: from streaming to cryptocurrencies
Daily habits, as already mentioned, do not immediately make visible the actual consumption of Internet technologies. Watching 10 minutes of a very high definition movie, although a minimal battery consumption of a device, generates the same amount of CO2 on the server side as a 2,000W electric oven turned on for three minutes.
A fact that should raise some attention, as The Shift Project explains, given the pervasiveness of streaming services in our existence. In perspective, a video in streaming it requires about 1,500 times more server-side energy than that used by the smartphone to display it. In Italy alone in 2020, 6.5 million hours of streaming content were seen per year.
No better forartificial intelligence, such as the various voice assistants that all brands have equipped themselves with, which for machine learning operations can produce as much as 284 tons of CO2 every year, according to the Amherst University of Massachusetts. And the explosion of cryptovalute this figure further increases, which is difficult to calculate since often the servers that manage Bitcoin or similar currencies are geographically located in countries where neither operations nor precise consumption are actually recorded.
In recent times, Greenpeace evaluated the weight of the energy consumed by the IT big names to power their datacenters. Apple is the greenest company, with clean energy for more than 83% of the surveys, followed by Facebook at 67%, Google al 56%, Microsoft al 32%, Adobe al 23% e Oracle all’8%.
It is therefore clear that it is necessary “decarbonising digital“, With measures that require the IT big names to use renewable energy and, where possible, to commit to the complete compensation of the CO2 produced.
Source: Corriere della Sera
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