IT's carbon footprint

Background - 10 May, 2010
The IT industry is one of the most rapidly growing emitters of greenhouse gas pollution and industrial consumers of electricity. Without a significant increase in the use of renewable energy, the IT sector's carbon footprint will continue to grow at a concerning rate, increasing the demand for electricity produced from coal and other forms of dirty energy.

Given the projected growth of the IT sector, companies must effectively tackle their own operational emissions and those associated with their products by setting goals to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions on a well-defined timeline.

Make IT Green

Greenpeace's report, Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change, illustrates growth in the IT sector's electricity consumption — expected to more than triple by 2020 — largely due to the expansion of cloud- based computing. Cloud computing, which relies on centralized data storage infrastructure to deliver real-time information from the internet, is quickly becoming a predominant IT business model.

Cloud computing diagram

Greenhouse gas reduction targets, footprint measurement, and disclosure are becoming increasingly important as companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft expand their operations to build data centers and increase electricity consumption, often increasing the demand for coal-fired power.

All IT companies, but particularly major players in the cloud computing market, must set strong greenhouse gas reduction targets to ensure that, as their appetite for energy increases, so does their use of renewable sources.