Digital data as dangerous for the environment as CDs and DVDs

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Only a few years ago, people and companies stored their information mainly on physical devices like CDs and DVDs. Today, we are encouraged to switch to cloud and digitalize data. Businesses are rapidly moving to cloud solutions and professional software like Office 365 are posting greatest revenues than ever. However, a newly released report has found that the digital technology is not entirely environmentally friendly.

The research is called “Clicking Green: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet” and it was released by Greenpeace. It explains that the electricity used for the powering of digital clouds, for example, leads to great carbon emissions and therefore affect the climate. Even though clouds offer users a lot of benefits and allows them to access their information from anywhere, these digital innovations are not entirely digital. They are backed by thousands of servers maintained by web services companies like GoDaddy and located all over the world. Namely, these servers consume huge amounts of electricity every day. Often, technology companies rely on electricity sources like natural gas or fossil fuel, both of which have a negative effect on the environment.

According to Greenpeace’s report, services related to the IT sector make up about 2% of all carbon emissions in the world today. This number might sound miniscule, but in reality it equals the carbon emissions share of the aviation industry.

Moreover, researchers predict that this percentage will increase with a rapid speed in the near future. That is mainly due to the fact that the amount of web users is expected to jump by 60% over the next half a decade. In addition, data use is said to grow by three times between the period 2012 and 2017 when it is predicted to reach 121 exabytes (121 billion gigabytes).

Gary Cook, one of the authors of the study, states that these figures should not be viewed as something bad. He warns that if technology companies do not take measures today, the negative effects of digital technology and the high web usage would continue to grow.

On the bright side, the report says that many of the technology corporations have already started to look and rely on green cloud and data strategies. One of the leaders in this field is Apple. The company’s iCloud service reportedly relies entirely on renewable energy sources. In addition, the tech giant constructed the biggest private solar farms in the U.S.

Despite that, there are also companies that still have not adopted green strategies. Some of them are not open about their energy policies and do not invest in renewable energy sources.

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