When It Comes To IT, There Shouldn't Be A Conflict Between Efficiency And The Environment

from the two-sides-of-the-same-coin dept

Speaking at a conference, an analyst at Gartner prodded the IT industry to take the environment more seriously, as he noted that information and communication technology contributes as much carbon dioxide as the airline industry does. This has become a pretty big topic of late, as many companies have announced measures to reduce their environmental footprint, while funding for green technology has soared. Still, the analyst's concern seems a little bit misplaced. It's totally meaningless to say that IT produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as airplanes, since IT is a much bigger component of the overall economy, as evidenced by the relative size of IT firms and airlines. Also, this ignores the fact that the whole point of IT is to make things more efficient. You can't talk about the resources a piece of technology uses up without talking about the resources that it saves. The real problem is that by fretting about the industry's power consumption, it assumes that this is not already an issue being taken seriously. Environmental concerns notwithstanding, companies have always been interested in ways to reduce their electricity bill. The key thing to recognize is that the goals of reducing environmental impact and becoming more efficient not only go hand in hand, they're basically the same thing.


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  1.  
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    dorpus, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 10:16am

    The CO2 smoke screen

    The real issue is the toxic elements, including lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium, and cadmium, that are inside computers. They pose a persistent threat to the environment, both during their manufacture and disposal. When the US decides to become like the EU/Japan and start charging $300 disposal fees for PC's, the vast majority of the computer industry will go bankrupt.

     

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  2.  
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    Overcast, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 10:46am

    Considering the reduction in travel from online conferencing alone, it should be clear that in spite of some nuances, computers dramatically help the environment.

     

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  3.  
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    Hmm..., Apr 26th, 2007 @ 11:03am

    But wait...

    But without using their toxic spewing computers the pundits wouldn't have been able to figure out the numbers...it's a vicious cycle.

     

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  4.  
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    MissingFrame, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 11:14am

    Re: The CO2 smoke screen

    Interesting point. A lot of the toxic elements are being eliminated (lead, for instance), but it does bring up a point about replacing hardware for more efficient versions.

    What we really need to do is buy the most efficient and then keep it for as long as possible.

     

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  5.  
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    Araemo, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: The CO2 smoke screen

    "and then keep it for as long as possible."

    Depends on your definition of 'possible'. It's certainly possible to keep it long past the point where its power inefficiency is worse than the production wastes of a new computer(which will likely be more power efficient).

    Laptops are a perfect example.. While individual components of computers tend to get smaller and use less power, they are constantly being upgraded in ways that use more power. However, laptops are still forcing more computing power into devices with lighter batteries(Less batteries) and longer battery life(Lower power usage)... And now the same technologies to lower battery usage are moving to desktops, to lower overall energy usage.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 11:22am

    what about the airline IT departments?

     

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  7.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Apr 26th, 2007 @ 11:30am

    Re: The CO2 smoke screen

    They collect the $300 fee and still dump into the same place as the rest of the garbage, into the earth (or sea).

     

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  8.  
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    Bryan, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 11:57am

    Re:

    I'm in that group. My work computer was outdated years ago. I'm still happy to have it though. My company just upgraded the computers a year go. It's nice to finally have XP and rid my self of the P3. My Airline is great about keeping computers around well past there usefull life. In fact 2 years ago we still had some P2s lying around.

     

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  9.  
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    Overcast, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 12:30pm

    Someone has to be making a TON of $$$$ off all this environment/global warming stuff.

    Everytime you turn around, it's something else...

    Politicians never make a big deal out of anything unless it's adding cash to their bank accounts.

     

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  10.  
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    Norman, Apr 26th, 2007 @ 2:17pm

    Re: The CO2 smoke screen

    Oh yes real genuis there. Sorry but the comouter industry will never go under. What do you think runs the world? Computers. LOL!!! How are you posting this message? I am willing to venture a guess that you are not using messenger pigeons nor smoke sugnals... Why is it that people love to villify the very technology resp for improving life of our species? The technology which has most likely saved countless lives. Even though China is supposed to surpass the US in polution output this year I am willing to bet people will not be calling the China to stop it's growth and curse thier very existance. No that will still be reseved for the US. Oh and please keep in mind that the EU and Japan signed the Kyoto accord and yet most of the nations who signed will yet again not be in compliance. This includes Japan. Why is this? BEcause the Kyoto agreement is unrealistic.

     

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  11.  
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    mermaldad, Apr 27th, 2007 @ 3:57am

    Not Up to the Usual Standards

    While Joe has a point here, he makes several arguments that sound more like the kind that Techdirt usually makes fun of. To wit:

    "It's totally meaningless to say that IT produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as airplanes, since IT is a much bigger component of the overall economy". Why does that make it meaningless? If carbon emissions is a problem, then we want to look at the biggest contributors. Sure, the IT industry may be more pollution-efficient than other sectors of the economy, but due to its great size, any inefficiencies are magnified and should be examined.

    "The key thing to recognize is that the goals of reducing environmental impact and becoming more efficient not only go hand in hand, they're basically the same thing." I think this is a bit of an overstatement. I certainly agree that they do go hand in hand, but left to their own devices, businesses will focus on cost-efficiency, not environmental-efficiency. That's why computers are packed in so much styrofoam and other packing materials. It's cheaper, due to the costs of repairing/replacing items damaged in transit, but more environmentally damaging.

    Not up to the usual Techdirt standards, guys.

     

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