Greenpeace says the cloud is a carbon polluter

The environmental group wants the big Internet companies to lobby for more sources of renewable energy

A new report from Greenpeace warns that the growth in cloud computing will be accompanied by a sharp rise in greenhouse gas emissions, and calls on big companies like Facebook, Yahoo and Google to do more to help the environment.

"The cloud is growing at a time when climate change and reducing emissions from energy use is of paramount concern," Greenpeace says in the report released Tuesday. "With the growth of the cloud, however, comes an increasing demand for energy."

How much of an increase? Greenpeace admits that it's hard to calculate, but it estimates that the electricity consumed by the world's data centers and telecommunications networks -- which it calls "the main components of cloud-based computing" -- will triple between 2007 and 2020.

The big Internet companies are working hard to improve their energy-efficiency, which helps reduce their operating costs. But Greenpeace argues that they will still choose to locate data centers where it makes the most business sense, even if that means using "dirty" power from coal-fired plants.

The report, titled "Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change," takes as its starting point the upcoming release of Apple's iPad. Greenpeace calls the iPad "a harbinger of things to come," in the sense that its main purpose is to download video, music and books from cloud-based services.

It's not the first time Greenpeace has called attention to energy use in data centers, and the environmental group seems keen to raise awareness among consumers about where their Internet services come from.

Greenpeace recently started a campaign against Facebook, over its decision to build a data center in Prineville, Oregon, that will derive its electricity mostly from coal-fired power stations. In its report Tuesday, Greenpeace contrasted that decision with one made by Yahoo, which is building a data center outside Buffalo, New York, that will use mainly hydroelectric power.

Facebook has responded that Oregon's climate will allow it to use a type of fresh-air cooling that removes the need for heavy cooling equipment. It also says it never "chose" to run its data center on coal.

"The suggestions of 'choosing coal' ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a coal-powered data center. Similarly, there is no such thing as a hydroelectric-powered data center. Every data center plugs into the grid offered by their utility or power provider," Facebook told the Web site Data Center Knowledge last month.

Google and Microsoft, even while they continue to build new data centers, have done work to educate people about how to reduce their energy use. Last year Google even proposed a US$3.7 trillion, 20-year plan to reduce the U.S.'s dependency on fossil fuels.

Still, Greenpeace wants Internet companies to do more to shape the supply of renewable energy available to them, by increasing demand through choices about where they locate new data centers, or by lobbying politicians.

"Ultimately, if cloud providers want to provide a truly green and renewable cloud, they must use their power and influence to not only drive investments near renewable energy sources, but also become more involved in setting the policies that will drive more rapid deployment of renewable electricity generation economy-wide, and place greater R&D into storage devices that will deliver electricity from renewable sources 24/7," Greenpeace said.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags cloud computing

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?