As seen in section 2, ICT serves as a major linchpin in the efforts to fight climate change. The versatility of ICT does not merely stop at empowering people at work, education and personal living; the appropriate harnessing of the power of ICT would aid in reducing carbon gas emissions into the atmosphere. However, ICT is in fact also a contributor to the upward spiral of greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2007, analysis conducted by Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory firm based in Stamford, has pointed out that the intense use of the Internet has contributed to 5.3% of the world's energy consumption while ICT in general is responsible for around 2% of the world's greenhouse gases emissions [CC:3]. In addition, the ICT industry's own carbon footprint is predicted to grow at 6% annually and double by 2020 due to greater uptake of technology in China and India, the two economic powerhouses, as well as the rest of the world [CC:4].
The global study predicts PC ownership will quadruple between 2007 and 2020 to 4 billion devices and emissions will double over the same period, with laptops overtaking desktops as the main source of global ICT emissions (22 per cent); mobile phone ownership will almost double to nearly 5 billion accounts to 2020 but emissions will only grow by four per cent; and broadband uptake will treble to almost 900 million accounts over the same period, with emissions doubling over the entire telecoms infrastructure.
The ICT sector must manage its own growing impact and continue to reduce emissions from data centres, telecommunications networks, and the manufacture and use of its products.
SMART 2020 Report
The 'SMART 2020: Enabling the low carbon economy in the information age' report highlighted that the ICT sector can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage energy savings, and assist efficient and low carbon production. ICT can also provide the means to reduce greenhouse emissions of other sectors, which could result in much more carbon savings and cost savings than the total savings in the whole ICT sector in 2020. The ICT sector could reduce emissions by 7.8 GtCO2e (Giga/Billon tonne Carbon Dioxide equivalent) in 2020 which corresponds to 15% of emissions in 2020. This also meant an estimated 600 billion cost savings.
Reduction of emissions from PCs and peripherals, data centres, and telecoms device
The ICT sector (consisting of personal computers (PCs) and peripherals, telecoms networks and devices and data centres) contributed to about 2% of the estimated total emissions from human activity in 2007, with a quarter of the emissions coming from the ICT materials and manufacture and the rest from ICT use. The SMART 2020 report provided several practices to reduce emissions from three main areas: PCs and peripherals, data centres, and telecoms device.
PCs and peripherals
The use of PCs has grown ubiquitous over the years which also increased the global carbon emissions. The increase in PC computing demand is expected to be compensated by advances in power management and two major technology developments by 2020.
Laptops are expected to largely replace desktop PCs, which today accounts for 84% of the market, by 2020. It is estimated that 74% of PCs will be replaced by laptops. The other technological advancement is the production of low energy alternatives of cathode ray tube (CRT) screens.
Other forms of energy reduction technological breakthroughs include solid state hard drives, choleristic LCD screens and direct methanol fuel cells.
The data centre buildings, which contains servers, storage devices, power supplies, fans and other cooling equipments, has increased with the evolution towards the "information age" where large amounts of data is requested, stored and used. Such increase has lead to an increase in the generation of carbon emissions.
Virtualisation technologies will allow pooling of resources when their usage is low to allow the resources to be used by other areas of the enterprise. Virtualisation could reduce emission by 27% with good planning of service delivery and resources pooling.
A further 18% reduction is expected by 2020 with the use of technologies to check high temperature sections of the data centre and shift direct cooling to those sections. Some other ways to reduce energy usage due to the use of energy for running back-up, power supplies and cooling systems includes reducing the air conditioning and allowing the external environment to cool the data centre when climates is cool.
It is predicted that the growth of China and India will increase the use of telecom devices such as mobile phones, Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) boxes and home broadband routers, resulting in increased carbon footprint.
Most of the mobile devices carbon emissions originated from the standby mode, which is the power is used by chargers that are plugged in but not being used. The adoption 1W standby standards and the use of "smart charger" (charger which turns off when mobile device is not plugged into the charger) can help compensate the forecasted growth of mobile accounts to 4.8 billion in 2020.