The IT industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world and the fact that its development accelerates by the year is even more concerning. Its future grow and the impact it’s going to have to the economy if limits are placed on carbon emissions have been evaluated by the Institute for Sustainable and Applied Infodynamics (ISAID) in Singapore and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy in Houston.
The study, concerning the efficiency of the IT systems for each kilogram of CO2 emitted, found that the information and communication technology (ICT) in the United States will double the rate of carbon emissions compared to the rate of its contributions to the gross domestic product during the next ten years.
For example, as study co-author Chris Bronk claims, the economic output of the ICT in 2009 per kilogram of CO2 emitted was about $2.83. That value will fall to around $1.06/kg of CO2 by 2020.
Avinash Lingamneni and Kirthi Muntimadugu compiled governmental and industrial sources of information in their research. The CO2 in question isn’t emitted by the devices themselves (as well as electric cars don’t make their carbon footprint by themselves), but by the power plants producing the electricity, mostly coal-powered.
Of course, either changing the amount of electricity the IT devices consume or how the energy is generated in the first place could change this scenario for the better. Staying on the same track (continuing today’s business as usual) will render the IT industry very inefficient to the environment, doing it more harm than good.
The research studied mostly the impact of PCs and laptops (accounting for 48.5 percent of global ICT emissions in 2009), cell phones and video consoles, considered to have the highest growing rate during the last few years. Solutions exist, and the technology is advancing more and more sophisticated technologies to the old troubles caused mainly by heating. Thermoelectric devices are one of the answers.