iPad launch forecasts a “cloudy” future for IT carbon emissions

Greenpeace report shows cloud computing GHG emissions tripling by 2020

Press release - 31 March, 2010
At the launch of Apple’s iPad, a new Greenpeace report reveals how the rise of cloud computing threatens to see greenhouse gas emissions from powering ever expanding data centers spiral out of control. (1)

"Make IT Green - CloudComputing 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 IT sector than previously estimated.

The report builds on previous industry research (2) that shows that at current growth rates data centers and telecommunication networks, the two key components of the cloud, will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatts hours of electricity in 2020, more than triple their current consumption and more than the current electricity consumption of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined. (3) However, the report also shows how IT can avert climate chaos bybecoming a transformative force advocating for solutions that increase the useof renewable energy.

"As the cloud expands, the IT industry's appetite for energy will increase, making it a major source of climate change unless the industry adopts and advocates renewable energy use and backs laws to cut global warming," said Casey Harrell, Greenpeace International campaigner. "IT companies like Microsoft, Google, and IBM are now in powerful positions at the local, national, and international levels. They must use that influence to promote policies that will allow them to grow responsibly without helping to fuel climate change.

Facebook recently announced the construction of its own data center in Prineville, Oregon, running primarily on coal. By choosing energy company PacifiCorp, a utility that sources the majority of its power from coal-fired power stations, Facebook missed a chance to promote the use of renewable energy and instead reinforced the coal industry's grip on the United Sates power grid. (4)

"The ICT sector has the ability to help us combat climate change by doing what it is best at - innovating to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency," Harrell said. "Technologies that enable smart grids, zero emission buildings and more efficient transport systems are key to cutting climate change pollution. But given the current pace of growth in cloud computing, the industry needs to get its own carbon footprint under control." (5)

Greenpeace calls on IT industry giants to put their might behind government policies that give priority grid access for renewable sources like wind and solar energy. IT companies should also support economy-wide climate and energy policies around the world that peak emissions by 2015.


VVPR info: Prajna Khanna, Communication Manager, Greenpeace International, + 31 6212 96896, Tom Dowdall,Greenpeace International Campaigner, + 31 6212 96892


1. "Make IT Green - Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change" is available for download at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/ipad-cloud-climate-change-2903102.

2.The Make IT Green report builds on the seminal analysis of the Smart 2020 Report (2008) which detailed the growing carbon footprint of data centers and telecommunication networks. To make the data of the report more accessible as an instrument to evaluate the projected impact of the cloud on electricity demand and their relationship to energy policies, the Smart 2020 analysis has been de-aggregated to show overall electricity consumption. The 2020 Report provides carbon footprint figures in MtCO2e as a combination of two sources of emissions: indirect emissions from electricity use (scope 2) and indirect emissions from upstream production (scope 3), or embodied carbon. To show electricity or energy use emissions separately, a correction factor [Scope 2/ (Scope 2+3)] was applied. This correction factor for Scope 2 is derived from the information provided on global internet footprint in the Smart 2020 Report, which includes PCs in addition to telecoms and data centers. The Smart 2020 Report is available at http://www.smart2020.org/publications

3. National electricity consumption data obtained from the United States Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook, 2007 data. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2042rank.html

4. To challenge Facebook to drop coal and use clean energy, Greenpeace began an advocacy page on Facebook. As of 31st March, more than 370,000 people have signed one of the Facebook groups (in English and Spanish) http://www.greenpeace.org/coalfacebook

5. The ICT sector's abilities to lead and to innovate are the reasons Greenpeace began its Cool IT Campaign in 2009. The campaign uses direct company engagement and public engagement to provide pressure on the ICT industry to put forward solutions to achieve economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions and to be strong advocates for policies that combat climate change and increase the use of renewable energy. For more information visit http://www.greenpeace.org/coolit