Life without the internet has become unimaginable: we exist in a whirlpool of information, Tweets, Facebook posts, blogs and emails. But as life before the internet fades into a distant memory, have we really thought about the cost of a click?

 

What we may not know about the tool that has reshaped our daily lives is the extraordinary amount of power required to keep it going. Enormous data centers are needed to store the information from the millions of Tweets, Facebook posts, video uploads and Google searches that are happening around the world every second of every day.

The power needed to run these data centres is mind boggling. If the internet was ranked alongside countries in terms of electricity use, it would rank 6th in the world.

In Korea, this power comes mostly from dirty energy, such as nuclear, coal and gas.

And it’s only going to grow. Internet access is predicted to expand by 60% by 2020 and IT-related services are now responsible for 2 % of global emissions, roughly the same as total carbon emissions from the aviation industry.

It doesn’t have to be disastrous: Korea’s IT sector doesn’t have to develop in a harmful way. Naver, Korea’s biggest web portal demonstrated exactly that in June, when it committed to 100 % renewable energy.

But they can’t do it alone. Naver’s commitment was a huge step in the right direction. Now, the rest of the IT sector needs to follow suit.

That’s why Greenpeace Seoul staged a competition yesterday to show how Korea’s top IT firms Samsung, KT, LG, SK and Daum Kakao are lagging behind in the race towards a cleaner future.

Each of the competitors bore the score they received from Greenpeace’s Seoul’s latest report, grading them on their clean credentials.

Naver, who received an A grade for both 'Transparency and 'Renewable Energy Policy' was miles ahead...

 

While companies like Samsung, who received an F grade for their green efforts, barely made it past the starting line...

 

Korea has big ambitions to become a tech hub for Asia, and indeed the rest of the world. But it can’t be an innovator when its energy network is highly polluting and stuck in the past. Global IT powerhouses like Google, Facebook and Apple have already committed to 100 % renewable energy, after Greenpeace supporters asked them to Unfriend Coal and “Clean our Cloud”.

And even better, they’re pushing other industries to fall in line. Just last month, 19 American IT corporations urged Amazon to join them and commit to renewable energy.

Korean IT companies need to get on board with the global trend and clean up their act.

Naver has proven that Korea has the potential to be a trailblazer for green IT in Asia.They don’t need to run alone.  Korea’s IT industry needs to get in the race.

Jude Lee is a Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Seoul.