The expansion of technology is adding to energy use in digital technology, which amounts to 10% of world electricity consumption. This skyrocketing figure is raising flags. Our digital activities are energy-intensive: They account for nearly 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. We are warned about the environmental impact of the digital industry, which is accused, moreover, of “greenwashing”. Could there such a thing as an ecologically virtuous digital industry?
The answer may not apparent, and with no certainties could we try to awaken our consciences and imagine how to make digital activity environmentally responsible? Can IT be environmentally friendly?
Global impact is not always easy to measure
What with global warming, our digital lifestyle has come increasingly under fire. We have grown used to having everything at our fingertips: videos on Youtube, high-definition shows on Netflix, social media of all kinds, etc. With online commerce, some people are touting the environmental benefits of logistic optimisation but others accuse it of promoting impulse purchases. Overall, applications are increasingly power-hungry, with greater masses of data sent over media supported by more and more powerful infrastructures. These applications, which we use incessantly, are taking over our daily lives.
According to ConsoGlobe an environmentally conscious online magazine, data centres will use up 104 billion kWh in 2020. The alarming figure of IT energy consumption is constantly increasing. In 2018, the Shift Project, a Paris-based think tank, ascertained this fact: the exponential growth of the digital world is a danger to the planet. The carbon footprint of servers, networks and terminals is rising by 9% per year. In addition, it is still very difficult to properly recycle the rare compounds required for electronic systems and batteries to operate.