Eco Anxiety

I’m starting to hear about people (teens and twenty-somethings primarily) that are getting seriously anxious and even clinically depressed about the state of the world, notably the environment.  People such as David Attenborough suggesting that humans are a plague or than we will be extinct by mid-century aren’t helping helping either. Note the language being used on this image. Shades of Malthus in the late 1700s and the Club of Rome in the 1970s? Where is the optimism?

Digital technology and carbon emissions

I was at the Web Summit last week in Lisbon. I’ve never seen quite so many black North Face rucksacks in one place, although black faces were almost totally absent. OK, there was some refreshing energy and optimism, but also quite a bit of delusion (in my opinion) surrounding future AI and the inevitability of conscious machines.

But the best bit was, without doubt, the sustainable merchandise. Hand-knitted jumpers for £800 and re-useable drink containers. Heaven forbid that any of the 70,000 attendees used a single use coffee cup. These, of course, were all sold alongside the fact that tech uses around 15-20 per cent of global energy (depending on whom you believe) and has a carbon footprint that would put BP and Boeing to shame (See a good article on the carbon footprint of AI here).

Clearly any industry will create emissions, especially during any transition to clean energy, but what gets my goat is how certain groups and individuals have focussed on one area (e.g. flying) at the total exclusion of others. For example, emissions from the global fashion industry and textile industries match and possibly exceed aviation.

BTW, if anyone has a reliable figure for carbon emissions created by Apple, Facebook and Uber et al – but especially Google and Amazon (incl. AWS) please share!

Digital Emissions

We hear a lot about the environmental costs of air travel. Burning jet fuel currently contributes around 2.5% to total carbon emissions. Therefore, fly less or stop flying altogether we’re told. But what you don’t hear so much about is that Information Communication Technology (ICT) will be responsible for 3.5% of global emissions by 2020. A 2013 study suggested that the digital economy uses 10% of global electricity and this could double to 20% by 2025. The issue is data centres, but even an iPhone uses more power than a fridge. Tweet that.

PS – On a slightly related note, did you know that bitcoin mining consumes more power than Switzerland?