As we all know, information technology is both a culprit and a hero when it comes to carbon emissions. Various research companies estimate that information and communications technologies contribute about 2 percent of the global carbon footprint, and the larger IT companies have been falling all over each other to address their own profile. Cisco is the latest to take a big stand, as I blogged yesterday.
But that's technology as a culprit. If you want to get a better handle on which information technologies can help your company reduce its carbon footprint and make your team look like heroes, there are two new white papers/reports out this morth.
The first, "Smart 2020: Enabling the low-carbon economy in the information age," is from the Climate Group, which hails from Europe. (Which means you have to translate a lot British pounds to U.S. dollars in order to understand the full impact of what they're talking about.)
The report basically postulates that the technology-consuming society could help cut man-made greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by the year 2020 by transforming some basic workplace practices. That's a savings of $800 billion in energy efficiency, according to the Climate Group. The analysis in the report was provided by McKinsey & Company.
The bad news is that the report envisions the IT industry's carbon footprint doubling during that timeframe. The good news is that at the same time, the technology the industry provides could reduce worldwide emissions by up to five times what it produces. It's one of those chicken-and-egg problems. (The amount the industry could save is more than the current-day emissions contributed by either the United States or China.) Four areas where the report says green technology will play a critical role: smart buildings, smart logistics, smart electricity grids and smart industrial motor systems.
Here's the complete 2020 report. Warning: This is an 87-page PDF.
The second, released by Hewlett-Packard on June 20, recaps the various HP technology innovations that it is holding up as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Entitled "Low Carbon IT Solutions," HP's paper classifies its work on green technology in three different areas: 1. Tech that helps reduce energy intensity and carbon footprint: This is basically all the work on energy-efficient, such as the HP Dynamic Smart Cooling products and some of its research on sensor networks for real-time energy monitoring. 2. Tech that substitutes carbon-intensive processes with low-carbon ones: This is where telepresence and videoconferencing technologies are being touted, replacing face-to-face with screen-to-screen. 3. Tech that enables low-carbon economy management: Software and so forth for monitoring carbon reporting.
HP runs some number on how various products in its portfolio address certain elements of this three-pronged strategy. Plus it actually pulls out some stats on how much carbon can be offset in its area. So, check it out if you're an HP shop.