Web’s carbon footprint causing concern

CO2 clock

If we keep using the internet at the rate we are, we will harm the planet, according to experts.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, experts warned that the web's carbon footprint is increasing exponentially, adding that unless our use and consumption of is reined in, we will face a 'perfect storm' as energy and web providers struggle to meet demand.

"In an energy-constrained world, we cannot continue to grow the footprint of the internet," Subodh Bapat, vice-president at Sun Microsystems, explained in the interview.

" We need to rein in the energy consumption. We need more data centres, we need more servers. Each server burns more watts than the previous generation and each watt costs more. If you compound all of these trends, you have the perfect storm."

The Guardian report points to recent analysis from Credit Suisse that suggests that YouTube could lose as much as $470 million (317 million) this year, as it struggles to find the resources to serve videos of cute cats and people falling off trampolines.

Taken together, these factors contribute to a carbon footprint that is worst than that of the airline industry. The Guardian found one study, commissioned by the US environmental protection agency, that suggests that US data centres used 61 billion kilowatt hours of energy in 2006. Or in other words, "Enough to supply the whole of the UK for two months, and 1.5 per cent of the entire electricity usage of the US".

Urs Hlzle, Google's vice-president of operations, admitted to the Guardian that his firm was struggling to contain its energy costs. "You have exponential growth in demand from users, and many of these services are free so you don't have exponential growth of revenue to go with it," he said.

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