Virtual Warming

Very interesting programme on Radio 4 today about the carbon cost of our digital lives. Increased use of digital technology can have green benefits with reduced travel etc., but we what the piece uncovered so well was the huge energy draw that data centres create. Each time we upload a picture to Facebook, or request a video from YouTube, we are making an energy demand and the cumulative effect of these demands already amounts to 2% of global carbon emissions. Indeed, each virtual character in Second Life actually has a larger carbon footprint than the average resident of Brazil.

I’ve added to the problem by writing this. And you’d added to it by reading it. But perhaps together we need to raise awareness to encourage the data storage industry to do more in terms of energy saving through more natural cooling systems and greener energy consumption. I’m going to start by looking to move my web-hosting over to a green supplier. Not sure which yet, but AISO seem to be doing the right thing.


4 responses to “Virtual Warming”

  1. you are so right with this aspect. i assume that we are getting more conscious on the effect the so called greener lifestyle has – remember the initiatives supporting the use of web and computer instead of paper…

  2. Yeah, it’s a tricky one. Apparently uploading a 200k pic to facebook, with 20 friends looking at it, is equivalent to leaving a 60W bulb on for 30mins. I think that’s quite a lot, given the massive activity of these sites.

  3. It’s definitely an issue. It was good to hear the programme begin to touch on some of the ways that the industry’s addressing it, but there’s a lot more they could have said.

    Seemingly every server vendor has been pushing out new more efficient devices lately, and the advent of ‘cloud computing’ is helping us make much more effective use of servers that would otherwise be sitting idle (but still using power). There’s a long way to go, but we’re gradually moving in the right direction.

  4. Interesting piece on Google’s latest power-hungry data centre here

    “Once at full capacity, one Google data plant in Oregon could use the same power as every home in Newcastle put together.”