IT greenhouse gas emissions to double by 2020... if we're lucky

IT greenhouse gas emissions to double by 2020... if we're lucky

Summary: A new report argues greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the IT sector will grow as the number of network-connected devices increases.


The IT sector needs to become more efficient to curb its unrelenting demand for electricity and ensure greenhouse gas targets are met, a new study has warned.

Global IT usage currently accounts for approximately two percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But the research by Bio Intelligence Services, commissioned by Alcatel-Lucent, warned this will double to four percent by 2020 as a result of more people using computers, phones and other networked devices. 

The rise to four percent is a best-case scenario and assumes that energy-efficiency advances are made within the IT sector. If no advances are made, greenhouse gas emissions for the sector could be much higher: the scenario for the highest growth in network traffic envisioned by researchers sees 2020's total worldwide telecommunications traffic reach 400 times its 2007 level.

The report argues that the efficiency improvements possible in current technologies are expected to slow and then plateau by 2017, meaning new technologies and efficiencies will need to be established. 

But IT also helps other industries to be greener - for example, video conferencing can cut air travel, and cloud computing allows multiple businesses to work off the same energy-consuming IT infrastructure.

As a result, IT enables the global economy to operate more efficiently, to the extent that the greenhouse gas reductions it facilitates are five to seven times greater than the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the IT sector itself.

Topics: IT Policies, Emerging Tech, Networking

Sam Shead

About Sam Shead

Sam is generally at his happiest with a new piece of technology in his hands or nailing down an exclusive story. In the past he's written for The Engineer and the Daily Mail. These days, Sam is particularly interested in emerging technology, datacentres, cloud, storage and web start-ups.

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  • CO2 has little to do with modern global warming...

    Has more to do with the sun and how the solar wind protects the earth from cosmic radiation and cloud formation then some percent of a percent of a weak green house gas that is food for plants of which we need more of.
    Rann Xeroxx
    • Wrong, wrong, wrong...

      Really, the solar wind IS a form of cosmic radiation. CO2 is vital for photosynthesis to take place, but unless we have more plants performing said chemical reaction, we will (and indeed do) have an excess of it.
  • This religious adherence to anthropogenic global warming is

    fascinating. We know for a fact that environmental scientists have been manipulating data, making things up and outright lying about the climate, and yet people continue to act as if it's incontrovertible fact. That tells me this is ideological.

    Here is a scientific fact. Carbon Dioxide is a trace gas that is an essential nutrient for plant life. Without carbon dioxide in the air, we all die. So, feed a plant: Drive an SUV.
  • Nonsense!

    Sam, I guess no-one told you that the earth has been cooling for 20 years, while we have been bombarded by the media every day with this 'AGW' nonsense? So now that the IPCC admits they have no idea why it isn't warming, and refuse to predict when and how much it will warm, and everyone except the government realises it is a total scam, I would have expected a technical/scientific tome like ZDNET to modify the message, dispose of this re-gurgitated garbage, and put out some real NEWS...