Greenpeace warns that the cloud's carbon emissions could triple by 2020 thanks to the likes of Facebook

Cloud computing ‘fuels climate change’

The growth of cloud computing could cause a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions, Greenpeace has warned.

In a new report, ‘Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and its Contribution to Climate Change’, Greenpeace estimates that, at current growth rates, data centres and telecommunication networks will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatt hours of electricity by 2020 – more than triple their current consumption.

Greenpeace picks out the growth of “quintessential cloud computing devices” like Apple’s iPad as part of the problem, as they give users constant access to social networks and other online tools.

The organisation also criticised Facebook’s recently constructed data centre in Oregon, which runs on coal rather than renewable energy. According to Greenpeace, over 365,00 Facebook members have recently joined groups calling on the company to quit coal and become a climate leader.

“The IT sector has the ability to help us combat climate change by innovating to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency. Technologies that enable smart grids, zero emission buildings and more efficient transport systems are key to cutting climate change pollution. But, given the current expansion in cloud computing, the industry also needs to get its own carbon footprint under control,” Greenpeace said in a statement on its website.

“IT companies like Microsoft, Google, and IBM are now in powerful positions at the local, national, and international levels. They could use that influence to promote policies that will allow them to grow responsibly without fuelling climate change.”

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