Friday, 17 October 2008

IT's Emissions Contribution

In the latest McKinsey quarterly there is an interesting paper which sets out to evaluate the net impact of IT on carbon emissions, i.e. what it generates compared to what it can save. It's worth reading to appreciate the level of detail the study went into.

Anyway, there are no startling revelations on the generating side. The article comes up with the generally accepted figure of 2% of all emissions currently coming from the use of IT (although this study also included the energy used in manufacture in that figure). It also predicts that by 2020 worldwide ICT emissions will have increased to 3% of the global total, given the continued proliferation of IT equipment across the world and despite efforts to reduce their energy use.

But the interesting part is that McKinsey also estimated the contribution that IT could make in reducing emissions in four sectors—buildings, power, transport and manufacturing - as well as in horizontal replacement activities such as telecommuting and 'dematerialising' physical processes.

The good news is that information and communications technologies were found to have the potential to reduce far more emissions than they generate. The study identified annual reductions of 7.8 metric gigatons of carbon emissions by 2020 due to IT, compared with just 1.5 metric gigatons that IT will create. This is only a limited view of what can be achieve, so the possibilities are clearly much higher.

To quote the study " ...... companies that make everything from control devices to computer components, software to networking gear, will have a big incentive to invest in energy-saving products and services and thus help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing demand for information and communications technologies that promote abatement will create attractive growth opportunities for those companies".

I told you so!

© The Green IT Review

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