Thursday, August 27, 2009

THE MIXED GREENNESS OF COMPUTERS


Economist
- 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. The same report estimates that the spread of computers will increase these associated emissions by about 6% a year until 2020, when one person in three will own a personal computer, half will have a mobile phone and one household in 20 will have a broadband internet connection. Yet computing can also be used to tackle climate change. For example, domestic consumption could be cut by the large-scale employment of smart meters in houses and flats. Households are the biggest users of electricity after manufacturing and transport. In Britain, they accounted for 29% of consumption in 2004, according to a government report. Small and medium-sized businesses, meanwhile, could save electricity by switching to distributed computing, rather than running their own servers. The delivery of computer services over the internet, from vast warehouses of shared machines, enables firms to hand over the running of their e-mail, customer databases and accounting systems to someone else. Companies that do so use computers more efficiently and thus reduce not only their costs but also their carbon footprints.