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flashl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 07:39 AM
Original message
Computers have same carbon footprint as average SUV?
Computer servers 'as bad' for climate as SUVs

Computer servers are at least as great a threat to the climate as SUVs or the global aviation industry, warns a new report.

Global Action Plan, a UK-based environmental organisation, publishes a report today drawing attention to the carbon footprint of the IT industry in the UK.

"Computers are seen as quite benign things sitting on your desk," says Trewin Restorick, director of the group. "But, for instance, in our charity we have one server. That server has same carbon footprint as your average SUV doing 15 miles to the gallon. Yet, whereas the SUV is seen as a villain from the environmental perspective, the server is not."

The report, An Inefficient Truth states that with more than 1 billion computers on the planet, the global IT sector is responsible for about 2% of human carbon dioxide emissions each year a similar figure to the global airline industry.

The energy consumption is driven largely by vast amounts of customer and user data that are stored on the computer servers in most businesses. The rate at which data storage is growing surpasses the growth in the airline industry: in 2006, 48% more data storage capacity was sold in the UK than in 2005, while the number of plane passengers grew by 3%.

Read More ...


Are you ready to surrender your computers to save the planet?
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laruemtt Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 07:42 AM
Response to Original message
1. show me the science. n/t
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ThomWV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 07:48 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. I've seen the numbers - this is a bad way to say it but the underling truth is ...
What they are talking about is the carbon consumed in producing the power to run the thing. A bank of servers sucks up a lot of electrons and unfortunately in this country most of our electricity is generated by burning coal and much of that is done in power plants that are very very old.

I told you I have seen the numbers, and that is true (I was an Analyst at the Department of Energy for a couple of decades), unfortunately the last ones I saw were about 4 years ago so they wouldn't be of much use now. Even then the numbers showed a marked increase in electricity consumption that accompanied the computer revolution. This wasn't something that I was really looking at but as I recall sometime back around 2000 or so computers were using up something like 10~20% of our electrical production.

So that's what they are talking about, coal powered electrical production putting out carbon that they then attribute to the end user, which in many cases nowadays is a PC or Server.
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Toots Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:00 AM
Response to Reply #3
6. A large portion of society now uses laptops
Are you saying they also have a large carbon footprint?
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papau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:06 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. worse actually as desposal sucks and manufacturing uses a great deal of energy
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:01 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. So convert your house to solar and problem over?
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Warren Stupidity Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:35 AM
Response to Reply #3
11. That does not show 1 computer is equal to 1 SUV
Yes the billion or so computers on the planet suck up a lot of energy. I would still like to see the analysis that equates one computer to one suv.
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muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 09:39 AM
Response to Reply #11
16. Rough calculation
If the SUV gets 20mpg and covers 15,000 miles in a year, it uses 750 gallons

Gasoline carbon dioxide production: 19.4 pounds/gallon

So the SUV produces 14550 lb of carbon dioxide per year.

"Electricity production in the US results in an average emission of 1.34 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent (the measure of greenhouse gases) per kilowatt-hour (kWh)" source

So 14550 lb is equivalent to 14550/1.34 = 10858 kWh

For a machine that is continuously on, that is an average power consumption of 10858/365/24=1.24kW.

The weighted average of power consumption for mid-range servers for 2005 in this study is 641W, but that studay says:

Total power used by servers represented about 0.6% of total U.S. electricity consumption
in 2005. When cooling and auxiliary infrastructure are included, that number grows to
1.2%


so the total power used is about double. The calculation does look about right.
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Clark2008 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 09:52 AM
Response to Reply #11
18. They also save energy...
Has anyone done research to show how much?

I could argue that an SUV doesn't save energy in that one could always purchase a more fuel efficient and smaller car (cheaper to make), but a computer, while using a lot of energy and causing a lot of energy consupmtion to make, also saves energy.

:shrug:

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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 07:47 AM
Response to Original message
2. Well, if this is true, the thing is that computers can easily be switched to run on renewables
Along with other electronic household appliances.

But somehow I think that the comparison with SUVs is a bit over the top. I'd like to see how they reached this conclusion.
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dysfunctional press Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 07:58 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. it's also not a one-to-one comparison...
that is- one computer server does NOT equal the carbon footprint of one SUV...BUT- what they are saying is that since there are more than 1 billion computers on the planet, the entire carbon footprint for all computers combined is equal to or greater than the carbon footprint of all SUVs combined.

but i still don't know if i buy it. :shrug:
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Warren Stupidity Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:41 AM
Response to Reply #5
12. Which is completely different than the headline.
Of course one billion pcs eat a lot of electricity. Also, electricity can be manufactured using renewable or low carbon processes. Those one billion pcs do not have to be quite that bad, but where they get their electricity from is out of their control. Gas guzzling SUVs, on the other hand, are simply gas guzzling SUVs. It is their own internal power plant that is the problem.

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dysfunctional press Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 12:12 PM
Response to Reply #12
28. "can be" works both ways though...
yes, electricity CAN BE manufactured using renewables/low carbon processes- but at present and for the most part- they aren't. likewise- suvs CAN BE powered with renewable/low carbon sources- but at present, for the most part, they aren't- although ford does manufacture the escape hybrid suv, and i'm sure others will follow, as well as other power sources- possibly electric or other.

however- because of the myriad parts and materials and the related production process for each of those involved in the production of an suv, as well as the production and use of it's fuel- and other 'bodily fluids' throughout it's usable lifespan, i still question the original claim that computers have a larger overall carbon footprint than suvs.

and you're right- the headline isn't worded correctly at all.
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sendero Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 07:52 AM
Response to Original message
4. Whoever wrote this article...
.... might be correct on the idea of a big carbon footprint, but has no idea how computers work or what uses the energy in them.

"Storage", i.e hard drives, are not where energy is predominately burned. It is the processor that uses the juice, and frankly, most of them are spinning around doing nothing but burning up electricity.

The big manufacturers have been addressing this in the context of notebook computers in an attempt to improve battery life. But a lot needs to be done on desktops to stop burning 200 watts while doing nothing.
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ThomWV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:03 AM
Response to Reply #4
8. You hear that fan running in the computer? Its blowing expensive heat out the back
And its really unimportant to us which part inside the box produced the heat. What we have to keep in mind is that if its running for no reason we are contributing to the burning of the fuel at the power plant for no reason as well. Waste. Carbon. Remember if you live in the US it likely that at least some of your power comes from burning coal.
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Xithras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #8
30. Yes, idling home computers ARE a problem. Most people don't realize how much.
Edited on Fri Dec-14-07 12:41 PM by Xithras
Most newer home computers consume 300-400 watts of power while running, and even inexensive and older PC's consume 200+ watts. I used to leave both of my home computers running all the time, until a friend pointed out that the energy consumption of those two computers was the equivalent of TEN 60 watt lightbulbs running 24/7.

Just turning your computer off when you're not using it will save as much energy as replacing all of the incandescents in your home with CFL's.
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sendero Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 02:43 PM
Response to Reply #8
32. It's VERY important..
.. how that heat is generated. If you don't know, how can you make it produce less?
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mainegreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:10 AM
Response to Original message
10. I bet they did that study on a computer.
Several in fact.
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bryant69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:42 AM
Response to Original message
13. We should live in caves and eat nuts and berries
Go soon, so I can start looting your stuff.

Bryant
Check it out --> http://politicalcomment.blogspot.com
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flashl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 08:58 AM
Response to Original message
14. Page 2 of white paper
There are more than one billion computers on the planet (1), and the worldwide ICT sector is responsible for around 2% of man made CO2 each year a similar figure to the global airline industry (2). In the UK, there are an estimated 10 million office PCs (3); and ICT equipment accounts for roughly 10% of the UKs total electricity consumption (4).

The ICT sector is growing at a faster rate than the aviation industry. In 2006, 48% more data storage capacity was sold than in the previous year (5) , compared to a 3% increase in UK air travel passengers in the same period (6). The impact of the sector is starkly illustrated through the following statistics.

  • A medium-sized server has a similar carbon footprint
    to an SUV achieving 15 miles to the gallon (7).
    Servers also require as much energy to cool them
    as they directly consume (8).

  • 1,000 PCs left on 24/7 without any power save
    settings activated will consume up to 70,000 of
    electricity per year (9) and for every unit of electricity
    consumed, around another half unit is required to
    dissipate the heat generated (10).

  • If 20% of European business travel was replaced by
    teleconferencing, around 25 million tonnes of CO2
    could be saved each year (11).

  • In 1980 before the introduction of the PC, world office
    paper consumption averaged 70 million tonnes a year
    by 1997 it had more than doubled to almost 150
    million tonnes (12).

  • In the UK, 120 billion pieces of paper are printed
    every year (13), the manufacture of which emits 1.5
    million tonnes of CO2 before taking into account the
    impact of the manufacture of printing equipment and
    ink and the energy consumed by printers (14).

  • Each year 125 million computers are taken out of
    circulation worldwide (15) and most of these end up in
    landfill sites (a problem addressed by the introduction
    of the European WEEE directive in 2007).

  • Manufacturing one PC requires 1.7 tonnes of raw
    materials and water and consumes over 10 times its
    own weight in fossil fuels (16).
    Using energy costs money so tackling the carbon
    footprint of ICT is simply good business practice.

    (1) Richard Barrington, head of Public Policy for Sun UK and Ireland and UK government advisor
    (2) Gartner, 2007 Press Release
    (3) The PC Energy Report A Report by the National Energy Foundation and 1E
    (4) Richard Barrington, head of Public Policy for Sun UK and Ireland and UK government advisor
    (5) IDC Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Tracker, March 2007
    (6) Civil Aviation Authority, News, March 2007
    (7) www.carbonneutral.com
    (8) Rakesh Kumar, Gartner Analyst, September 2006
    (9) Global Action Plan 2007
    (10) Roth et al 2002
    (11) European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ETNO) and the World Wildlife Fund
    (12) UK Wastewatch
    (13) Research for Fujitsu Siemens Computers
    (14) Global Action Plan Calculation from DEFRAs waste strategy 2007
    (15) PC World November 2007
    (16) Professors Rudiger Kuerh and Eric Williams, United Nations University in Tokyo
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    NeedleCast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 09:15 AM
    Response to Original message
    15. Another Worst Case Scenario Study?
    I wonder if this is a study where the worst case scenario for computers is used to related to normal operating of a 15 MPG SUV? There's a big difference between a server stack for a very large organization and a small file server with a few PCs hooked up to it...sort of like the difference between an empty SUV idling in your driveway and an SUV with four adults in it accelerating up a hill. Most PCs also come with some sort of power-save as well. I leave my (three) computers at home running 24/7 but they are all set to essentailly hibernate when not in use (major functions and disk drives turn "off"). I turn off all peripherals (monitors, scanner, printers, etc) when not in use and even if I forget, my monitors are all on a short delay power-save setting.
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    muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 09:52 AM
    Response to Reply #15
    19. See calcualtion in post #16
    The 'equivalent to an SUV' claim is for a mid-size server, in a data center, where cooling will be needed too - and cooling is half of the power consumption.
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    NeedleCast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 10:19 AM
    Response to Reply #19
    24. So the answer is pretty much yes
    this is a worst case scenario (or close to it) comparison. It also assumes outside factors such as cooling while the SUV is "stand alone" and doesn't seem to take into account factors such as energy consumption used to produce/deliver the fuel to the SUV, nor does it take into account the source of the power used to generate the energy powering the server and neccissary environment to maintain the server.

    Seems very apples and oranges to me.
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    muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 10:35 AM
    Response to Reply #24
    26. The calculation I showed was for an average mid-sized server
    so no, not 'worst case'. The source of the power was 'average' too.
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    NeedleCast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 10:49 AM
    Response to Reply #26
    27. In that case, the title of the survey is, at best, misleading
    As the title reads "computer server" not climate controlled, monitored mid-tier server. This could also be said of many pieces of electronic equipment other than "mid-tier, monitored, climate controlled servers." Seems like a random comparision and I don't understand the relevence. Is the author trying to make a point here, or is it a "just sayin" sort of thing?
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    CT_Progressive Donating Member (889 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 09:51 AM
    Response to Original message
    17. What a complete load of crap !!
    Edited on Fri Dec-14-07 10:05 AM by CT_Progressive
    Any appliance that uses electricity can be put into this comparison, not just computers.
    Plus, its only fully air-conditioned Servers that run 24/7 that match the SUV, not home PCs (non-airconditions, non-24/7).
    Plus, the carbon comes from the damn energy plant, not the computer. Who knows what kind of energy plant supplies any given server. What if my area is powered by a really efficient energy plant, or a nuclear plant? Pfft.

    This article is great ... for me to POOP ON!
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    muriel_volestrangler Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 09:54 AM
    Response to Reply #17
    20. So, which word of "Computer servers" did you not understand?
    Why is the article 'crap' because you start thinking about home PCs, when it's talking about servers? That's your problem, not the article's , surely.
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    CT_Progressive Donating Member (889 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 10:04 AM
    Response to Reply #20
    23. No, not "computer servers".
    "Computer servers in fully air-conditioned, climate controlled rooms, with monitoring, etc.".

    Plus, the title of the thread doesn't match the article, it only says "computers".
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    zorahopkins Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 09:54 AM
    Response to Original message
    21. "Computer Pool"
    Many people share their cars in order to get to work. It's called car-pooling.

    Maybe it will become necessary to share computers, as well. No one would own their own computer.

    Instead, people would share computers with several other people.
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    Evoman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 10:01 AM
    Response to Original message
    22. This may be true, but the difference is:
    Computers are owned by researchers, productive members of society, and douchebags.

    SUVs are owned only by douchebags.

    :evilgrin:

    *troll runs away from inevitable flames*
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    Kurovski Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 10:31 AM
    Response to Original message
    25. "15 miles to the gallon"?
    Then I guess it's okay as long as they keep their servers in the garage.

    It strikes me as an odd analogy.
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    Xithras Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 12:26 PM
    Response to Original message
    29. Some of it CAN be cut, but not much.
    Edited on Fri Dec-14-07 12:27 PM by Xithras
    As an example; A few days ago I paid a visit to my company datacenter. It was about 8 in the morning, 32 degrees outside, and yet our large Liebert A/C unit was running full tilt...just as it does 23 hours a day (our company electric bill is nearly $10,000 a month). This really isn't all that unusual for the industry either...when you pack more than a hundred heat generating computer servers into a fairly small room, that room gets HOT. If you do not have an A/C unit running in the room, the temps will continue to climb until the servers begin to fail. I've seen datacenter temps top 115F during extended failures (I had the misfortune to be the one forced to shut the computers down before they got even higher).

    I didn't think about it at the time, but I should have walked into the datacenter and told the admin on duty to just open a window. It's still only in the 40's outside, so I may go do that in a few minutes anyway.

    While some minor actions can be taken to reduce the amount of energy consumed by datacenters, much of it is fixed cost and is simply the inevitable side effect of living in a technological society. Heck, we're all chatting here on DU, which is running on an energy consuming server in some air conditioned datacenter someplace. Multiply that by every site on the Internet.
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    warren pease Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 12:53 PM
    Response to Original message
    31. Got my attention: this Mac runs on diesel and is already starting to burn oil. n/t
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    walldude Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 02:50 PM
    Response to Original message
    33. LMFAO.. now this is some funny shit...
    Edited on Fri Dec-14-07 02:50 PM by walldude
    How many people don't have to drive to work anymore? How much paper is saved because of e-mail? How much time and energy is saved because of computers? This is a joke, you can't even imagine the amount of energy computers have saved us... They can take this shit elsewhere.
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    LSK Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-14-07 02:51 PM
    Response to Original message
    34. so we should go back to chopping down trees for paper???
    Whats the solution then?
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