a report released today. The group is calling for technology companies that require large data centers to begin using renewable energy sources, warning that "the growth of Internet computing could come with a huge jump in greenhouse gas emissions".By the year 2020, the big players in cloud computing and big data could consume more power than France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined, says environmental advocacy group Greenpeace in
Greenpeace is calling attention to a central flaw in the duality of technology - its ability to help the world while, at the same time, running off the same old, dirty, polluting power sources that harm it.
The report, entitled "Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change", "shows how the launch of quintessential cloud computing devices like the Apple iPad, which offer users access to the 'cloud' of online services like social networks and video streaming, can contribute to a much larger carbon footprint of the Information Technology (IT) sector than previously estimated."
The report highlights Facebook's recent commissioning of a data center in Oregon, which is powered primarily by coal, "the United States' largest source of greenhouse gas emissions." Yahoo!, on the other hand, "chose to build a data centre outside Buffalo, New York, that is powered by energy from a hydroelectric plant - dramatically decreasing its carbon footprint." Google, it notes, has been "recently approved as a regulated wholesale buyer and seller of electricity", meaning any power it creates that it cannot use it can sell back to the power companies.
Greenpeace is using statistics from Smart 2020, a 2008 study that found that changes within the ICT sector could reduce "15% of business as usual emissions". As a result of rapid expansion in places like India and China, "demand for ICT services will quadruple by 2020".
The release of the report comes just days before Apple's release of the iPad, a device that will assuredly run off cloud-based services, and just weeks after Microsoft said it was betting the farm on the cloud.