The 2% Solution: Impact of IT, The New Low Carb Diet

I recently blogged about a figure I had read, that emissions due to IT were in the region of 2% of global totals, but couldn’t find/remember the source. Well the number just popped up again, thanks to a heads up by Local Government 2.0 maven (and RedMonk community platinum card holder) Dominic Campbell.

The estimate in question came from a report by Intellect, a UK technology industry trade association. The report, High Tech: Low Carbon, aims to “set out the issues relating to the energy demands of products and services together with a clear action plan for the sector to address them.”

According to the report, the energy use related to ICT (information communications technologies) currently accounts for about 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. If all else remained equal, a straight-line projection based on growth in both sectors would suggest that by 2050, we could see a five-fold increase in emissions related ICT and a six-fold increase in the emissions related to consumer electronics (CE).

However, we are already seeing massive improvements in the energy efficiency of both sectors, which is already helping to mitigate this risk. Intellect believes the industry can exceed the target set by the CBI Climate Change Task Force for a 30 per cent improvement in the efficiency of electrical equipment by 2030.

Its good to see some positivitity here, some of it even warranted. IT can indeed make massive strides in improving efficiency. Indeed- the entire industry has been arguably doing the opposite for the last 40 years, so there is plenty of room for improvement. The PC era was about unfettered abundance machismo, as was Internet version 1.0. But what comes next will be working with constraints. Speeds and feeds never remotely considered efficiency, except perhaps in odd places like mainframe I/O.

Perhaps unsurprisingly a vendor-led IT consortium supports IT accounting. As far as I am concerned though they are responding to a need, not inventing one. I am going to read the full report and comment some more but in the meantime I just wanted to flag the number for myself, and people like Dennis Howlett.

IT needs to get its act together, but so so other industries. Well done Intellect for putting a stake in the ground on the 2%, but thinking about the other 98. Lets get on that Low Carb(on() Diet.