Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Should I fly or should I type?

From the Economist, with irony:

AVIATION has long been blamed for its share of anthropogenic global warming. Indeed, some travellers now ask themselves whether their flight is strictly necessary and, if they decide it is, salve their consciences by paying for the planting of trees. These, so they hope, will absorb the equivalent of their sinful emissions. But you, dear reader, are indulging right now in activity that is equally as polluting as air travel: using a computer.

According to a report published by the Climate Group, a think-tank based in London, computers, printers, mobile phones and the widgets that accompany them account for the emission of 830m tonnes of carbon dioxide around the world in 2007. That is about 2% of the estimated total of emissions from human activity. And that is the same as the aviation industry’s contribution. According to the report, about a quarter of the emissions in question are generated by the manufacture of computers and so forth. The rest come from their use.

1 comment:

John Mashey said...


a) Given Peak Oil, the current level of air travel isn't going to be with us for many more decades. Figure world oil production down to 50% by 2050, and 10% by 2100. That leaves biofuels.

b) The semiconductor & computer industry is quite well aware of power usage, and working very hard on it, not just for the obvious mobile devices, but for the infrastructure.
Our local utility, PG&E, has run commercials encouraging the use of VMware do reduce the number of servers per data center.

See for example Hot Chips conference 2007, session on data center power and cooling. (I was one of the Program Committee Co-chairs that year, and a 20-year member of the various committees. We often joke that the conference should have changed its name a while ago, since power matters.)

c) Of course, for home and office use, just using laptops and setting hybernation modes right can help.

d) In the longer term, people are working on new memory technologies that should be noticeably less power-hungry than DRAM and disk.

SO, it's not like we don't know there's an issue...