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Modern computing is emitting as much CO2 as the aviation industry

Nowadays, computing is essential to our society, but the resources needed to handle our needs might be greater than we think. In 2020, the energy required to feed datacenters is expected to be the same as the total energy needed for Canada.

It’s widely known that the aviation industry has a significant slice (3%) of the total greenhouse gas emissions, although it’s not the worst (agriculture with 11%). Unfortunately, another contender with a similar-sized slice is modern computing. According to CBC News (via PCGamesN), because of the amount of data that is used every day for our needs – with a significant part coming from entertainment, specifically video streaming – computing is now responsible for about 3% of global CO2 emissions.

The problem isn’t the gadgets or laptops and home computers. It resides in the cloud and the datacenters, due to the cooling requirements that the servers need to prevent them from overheating. As if that wasn’t enough, the computing power needed for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and higher resolution content, to name a few, will have to increase to fulfil our new demands.

Anders Andrae, a researcher at Huawei Technologies Sweden, expects that by 2030 computing will use 11% of the global energy produced. Of this 11%, the most significant chunk will come from the cloud providers. Fortunately, Amazon and Google, two of the biggest cloud providers, are already working on reducing their datacenter power consumption by investing in renewable energies, such as solar and wind power. On the other hand, they aren’t free from using “carbon-based energy”, and until they complete their power “decarbonization”, there’s still a lot of work to do.

There are financial reasons to reduce the use of carbon-based energy, as well. Google already stated that it “prizes the cost-effectiveness and financial certainty of renewable power sources”.

With big companies such as Google and Amazon investing in reducing their carbon footprint, maybe there’s still a chance to change this expected upward trend.

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KitGuru says: Is it important for hardware manufacturers to invest in efficiency? Do you take power efficiency into consideration when buying new devices and components?

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