Data centers are one of the main reasons for pollution in the world today, just like aviation.
When it comes to ecology, the large oil groups, car manufacturers and the agrifood industry are generally singled out as those most responsible for the ongoing climate change.
But more and more often the digital giants are added to the list of convicted, at least of the condemned. If Amazon acts as a tree that hides the forest, Jeff Bezos’ company is indeed not the only one to pollute our planet by redacting its activity on the web.
All in all, the largest digital companies pollute at least as much as entire countries. It is generally agreed that 10% of the world’s electricity is dedicated to the internet. This mass consumption then makes it possible to supply the huge data centers. These are now used by all Internet users and they pollute as much as the aviation industry.
In order to find solutions against this constantly increasing pollution, the big new technology companies announced that they were going, or that they were already, “Carbon neutral”. But this name is not official, even worse, it is far from the general public’s vision of carbon neutrality.
Carbon neutrality … on paper
Indeed, the technology giants simply pay RECs, for Renewable Energy Certification. American financial products, similar in idea to the carbon tax implemented in Europe.
Very often companies that claim to be “carbon neutral” simply pay this tax in order to “clear customs” of the pollution they emit. But the latter is not reduced, and it is not offset by the creation of renewable structures or forests capable of absorbing the carbon emitted.
But in addition to electricity consumption, which requires a lot of energy and therefore pollutes a lot, data centers are responsible for another pollution. As the latest report from the Data Center Monitoring Institute explains, they consume a lot of water in order to stay at the right temperature.
An ecological problem still underestimated
In the Netherlands, the country’s data centers consume nearly a million cubic meters of water in a year, or the consumption of around 20,000 people over the same period. The situation has become very problematic in the region to the point that water cuts have been noted in the north of the country precisely because of the data centers and their consumption.
While the Cop26 has just ended, the issue of data centers has remained largely silent. In Europe, only Finland, which has invested heavily in renewable energies, is today capable of ensuring environmentally responsible operation for its servers.