Greenpeace predicts that greenhouse gases associated with cloud computing functions will triple by 2020, according to its “Make IT Green” report.
Cloud computing is projected to consume nearly 2 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year by 2020.
Expect Greenpeace to use this information to encourage emissions cutting at data centers, as well as adoption of renewable energy.
“Companies like Facebook, Google, and other large players in the cloud computing market must advocate for policy change at the local, national, and international levels to ensure that, as their appetite for energy increases, so does the supply of renewable energy,” Greenpeace said in the report.
Citing information from the SMART 2020 e-sustainability initiative, it’s predicted that PC ownership will quadruple to 4 billion units between 2007 and 2020.
Mobile phone ownership is expected to double to 5 billion users by 2020, but that alone is expected to cause only a 4 percent rise in emissions. However, use of broadband for the devices is expected to double the emissions related to telecom infrastructure.
But others point out how cloud computing benefits the environment.
Emma Stewart and John F. Kennedy, both of Autodesk, in an Environmental Leader guest column last year, made the following points:
- At the macro-economic level, cloud computing helps achieve economies of scale by centralizing compute power and democratizing access.
- At the CIO level, cloud computing helps shift the mindset to commoditize computing power, not servers, and therefore drive efficiencies via virtualization and greater utilization rates which allows systems to scale up or down due to load fluctuations.
- At the data center level, cloud computing’s drive towards consolidation paves the way for new standards for energy efficiency.
- At the R&D level, cloud computing creates incentives for software engineers to code more efficient applications, as often their company will become the host for said applications,
Recently, IBM launched a new energy efficient data center that, in turn, lowers the carbon footprint of clients who use it for cloud computing, compared to using an on-site data center.