Big Data, Digital Currencies Cause Major Carbon Footprint

Remember when Sir Issac Newton said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”?

With modern technology, this maxim works well when it comes to the environment. Due to regulations and efforts to balance costs, pollution has been radically reduced compared to the early years of the Industrial Revolution. New products must go through rigorous testing and re-testing before being allowed on the open market.

Meanwhile, it is becoming apparent that computers are also responsible for a worrisome carbon footprint on Mother Earth.

In 2009, a brief and yet interesting online spat occurred concerning the amount of carbon produced every time someone did a Google search. In brief, it was proven that every search “action” or simple Google search involves a certain amount of electricity to run all of the devices involved. Each, correspondingly, makes varying amounts of carbon impacts. Without electricity, Google wouldn’t exist, nor would Google searches.

Current numbers are rather mindblowing when it comes to the amount of electricity being globally to keep mobile device users happy, and to store the huge amount of Big Data mined daily. That’s not even including the explosion of the electricity gobbling industry of crypto-currency.  Here are a few numbers from an article in The to help explain:

“The size of this footprint has been growing. At the moment, about 7% of the world’s electricity consumption is taken by our digital ecosystem but this is forecast to rise to 12% by 2020 and is expected to grow annually at about 7% through to 2030. …The trouble is that server farms and networks account for only 50% of the electricity consumption of our networked world. The devices we use consume another 34% and the industry that manufactures them takes up the remaining 16%. Making environmental progress on these fronts will be much harder. A desktop PC running eight hours a day, for example, emits 175kg of CO2 in a year. So you can imagine the carbon footprint of a large city office block that has thousands of desktop PCs running for the whole of a working day. Multiply that by all the office blocks in the centre of London and you get an idea of the environmental impact of even the humble PC.”

Bitcoin mining is now consuming more electricity than 159 countries, including Ireland, Bahrain and the Slovak Republic, according to one estimate. It’s currently taking as much electricity as would be required to power 2.7 million U.S. households⎯and that it’s responsible for 0.13% of global electricity consumption. If energy use continues at the same rate, Bitcoin mining will equal all of Denmark’s electricity consumption by about 2020.

With the advancement in algorithms being used for crypto-currencies and their mining, they are greatly reducing the amount of power being consumed and required to keep the circuits open and humming with economic power.

The major players in these markets have agreed to invest in renewable energy in a big way. Facebook, Google and Apple, have now been joined nearly 20 other internet companies to keep their impacts to a minimum.

Be sure to check out the article about Bitcoin and Ethereum by writer Jordan Castinado regarding the meteoric rise of both digital currencies.