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Green ‘Inefficient Truth’

Telecom Summit panelist chastises ICT sector for not doing enough; emissions doubling every four years.


July 1, 2008  


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The chief research officer at Canarie Inc., Canada’s advanced Internet development organization, has warned that manufacturers and users of information communications technology (ICT) products must clean up their act when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Speaking at a Green IT panel in June at the 2008 Canadian Telecom Summit, Bill St. Arnaud described the ICT impact on CO2 as an “inefficient truth” in the fight against global warming. “The ICT industry produces more carbon dioxide than the aviation industry,” he said. “I recently saw a report that stated our industry will be producing 50% of CO2 emissions within the next 20 years.

“We have to change. All these data centres, all these communication technologies. Some radical rethinking will have to be done because we cannot continue down this path.”

St. Arnaud noted that:

• The ICT sector is now the fifth largest industry in terms of consumption of power.

• One small server sitting in a rack in a data centre produces as much CO2 as a normally driven SUV with a fuel efficiency of 24 kilometres per gallon.

• Nearly 40% of servers at universities and businesses are under utilized by more than 50%.

In addition, he noted that governments today are mandating carbon neutrality: “Premier Gordon Campbell in B. C. very quietly has introduced a law mandating all public sector institutions to be carbon neutral by 2010. The hospitals, the universities and the schools are currently in panic mode, They have to find a solution.”

St. Arnaud added that it is possible to create a “zero carbon society” if four steps are followed.

The first involves the creation of zero carbon data centres that are connected by optical networks and deploy grids, cloud computing (a form of pay-as-you-use service) and virtual computers at each facility. The second would see the elimination of enterprise servers and existing business and consumer applications moved to clouds and virtual servers.

Third, consumer PCs would be eliminated and handheld devices or solar power devices used to access applications over Internet. According to St. Arnaud, the total CO2 reduction of all these moves would be only 5%. The fourth step, however, namely using ICT to reward consumers and business who reduce their carbon footprint could result in an impressive 10% reduction by 2020.

The rewards theory surfaced earlier this year at an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) conference in Kyoto, Japan. In a presentation, Dr. Yuji Inoue, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., concluded that it would be possible for Japan to reach 90% of its Kyoto target by offering virtual rewards to consumers who successfully reduce their own carbon footprint.

On his Web site, St. Arnaud writes the current preferred approaches are to impose carbon taxes and implement various forms of cap and trade or carbon offset systems.

“It is estimated that consumers control or influence over 60% of all CO2 emissions,” he writes. “As such, one possible reward system of trading bits and bandwidth for carbon is to provide homeowners with free fiber to the home or free wireless products and other electronics services such as eBooks and eMovies if they agree to pay a premium on their energy consumption. That will encourage them to reduce emissions by turning down the thermostat or using public transportation.

“Not only does the consumer benefit, but this model also provides new revenue opportunities for network operators, optical equipment manufacturers, and e-commerce application providers.”

St. Arnaud pointed out at the panel that taxes are simply the wrong approach, adding that “carbon rewards are the way we want to go for this is also where ICT can play a critical role.”