Computers and Climate Change

Earth Egg
Creative Commons License photo: azrainman

Computing equipment (PCs, computer equipment and data centres) were responsible for 830 million tonnes of CO2 in 2007. That’s 2% of all human CO2 emissions putting IT on a par with aviation. By 2020, many expect IT emissions to increase to 1.4 billion tonnes, with most of that due to corporate data centres.

Sounds bad, right? Not so. An article in the Economist this week discusses the enabling effect of IT.

A study found that by 2020, IT would reduce CO2 emissions in other industries by 7.8 billion tonnes and hence contribute to tackling climate change rather than helping it along. For example, IT enables video conferencing which has a low CO2 footprint compared to air travel which it may replace. Computers can also be used to improve efficiency in all kinds of ways: for example planning a quicker and shorter route for a delivery driver. Obviously that leads to a drop in CO2 emissions in transport.

It’s certainly an interesting article which is worth checking out but I suppose we can live with the knowledge that computers aren’t part of the problem, they are part of the solution.

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