LONDON The information and communications technologies are responsible for about 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to research by Gartner Inc. This is about the same as the airline industry, yet gets much less attention from the global environmental lobby.
At its Symposium/ITxpo being held this week in San Francisco, Gartner research vice president told his audience the figure is unsustainable, despite the overall environmental value of IT.
So what can IT and communications technology executives and researchers do about the problem. In a word, get more efficient, says Mingay.
The 2 percent estimate includes the in-use phase of PCs, servers, cooling, fixed and mobile telephony, local area network (LAN), office telecommunications and printers. Gartner has also included an estimate of the energy used in design, manufacture and distribution of devices such as PCs and cell phones.
The estimate also takes in all commercial and governmental IT and telecommunications infrastructure worldwide, but not consumer electronics other than mobile phones and PCs.
Mingay believes all these areas have so many in-built inefficiencies that the prospects for reducing the volume of carbon dioxide generated could be significantly reduced.
"During the next five years, increasing financial, environmental, legislative and risk-related pressures will force IT organizations to get 'greener'; that is to say, more environmentally sustainable," said Mingay.
"When enough buyers start demanding it and we get beyond the superficial, being 'less bad' will no longer be anywhere near acceptable enough. That point will be reached in 2007 and 2008 for some geographies, particularly Europe, with other countries and regions taking longer," said Mingay.
He reckons equipment suppliers will have pressures put on them to gain a better understanding of the life cycle due to new legislation and directives in countries and regions worldwide. "The areas for innovation to reduce CO2 emissions are in the reduction of the materiality, energy consumption and use of hazardous substances throughout the life cycle, in addition to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of recycling and the use of recycled materials."
Meanwhile IT organizations, he maintains, will need to start by familiarizing themselves with existing enterprise environmental objectives and corporate social responsibility policies.
Mingay suggests organizations develop a strategy to address the current negative effects of using ICT. The growth in power requirements and levels of waste that it produces renders the current state unsustainable.