There is perhaps no greater challenge facing our world today than that of global climate change, and the role we will take in its intervention. Despite the fact that rising sea levels, droughts and other extreme weather patterns pose a major threat to business, most large companies continue to rely on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, some even going so far as to cover up the ongoing negative environmental impact their products have on the planet.
The tech sector has, for the most part, advocated for the strong support of climate action. Internet companies have forged a reputation for being leaders in choosing renewable energy over fossil fuels, making broad efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of their overall operations.
Apple, Google, and Facebook have all made significant steps towards relying on all-renewable energy sources. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to make more impactful changes all the way down the supply chain. As demand continues to rise for on-demand music and other entertainment streaming services, greenhouse gas emissions related to Internet use grow in turn. If Internet infrastructure remains tied to fossil fuels the planet will be in great trouble indeed.
While world leaders argue incessantly about the nuances of climate change reality, there are others who want to actually do something about the problem. Recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger penned an op-ed which he published on Facebook titled, “I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.” In which he is very vocal about the need for clean energy. If you haven’t read it–it’s worth the 5 minutes of your time. Additionally, earlier this year Greenpeace released a statement putting pressure on tech companies, urging them to move faster towards innovative green energy solutions. By keeping customers, investors, and stakeholders abreast of their progress and making the nature of the Internet’s energy appetite more transparent, there is hope that companies will see both the environmental and economic benefits of advocating for cleaner power.
Beyond adopted renewable energy technology, tech companies and consumers must also realize that the monopoly power companies which supply baseload electricity (and rely on dirty fossil fuels) still have a vice-like grip on our economy and will not go down without a fight. Internet companies will have to change the corporate energy landscape and promote new legislation if they want uphold the promises they begun to make to the planet. But with net traffic predicted to grow 23 percent by year 2019, these companies may be able to leverage their influence and play a significant role in reshaping the future of energy consumption, ultimately paving the way for more companies to follow.
With more datacenters under construction, it’s crucial for this sector of the economy to move to clean energy sources, such as wind and solar, immediately. As Gary Cook, senior IT analyst at Greenpeace, said, “If they’re built in the right way, it could be a great story and help the transition [to renewable energy]. If they’re built in the wrong way, it’s going to take us in the other direction, and increase our dependence on the sources of energy we have to move away from to address climate change.” According to Ohio Natural Gas, the burning of fossil fuels from human activity in 2013 in the United States alone emitted over 6500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. In order to prevent the world from warming beyond all hope, we need to understand that the atmosphere can no longer be our personal waste dump.
A leader in renewable energy advancements, Apple has publicly stated that it now powers all data centers using completely clean energy. Furthermore, it has announced plans to spend roughly $2 million dollars to build two new data centers in Ireland and Denmark, all powered naturally, of course. In China, Apple and its manufacturing partners have set goals to use wind, water, and solar energy to produce 2.2 gigawatts of energy by 2020. Google has also consistently matched Apple’s investments into clean energy while companies like Facebook, Equinix, Salesforce, and Yahoo are a little farther behind.
On the other hand, companies like Amazon Web Services, eBay, Oracle and HP are all still either heavily reliant on coal and oil, or they lack complete transparency about their usage. Energy monopolies make change difficult for many companies in places like Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, and the Carolinas, where renewable energy accounts for a small percentage of the grid. In Florida, it is actually illegal to disconnect from the main corporate-controlled power grid.
As environmentalism slowly gains footholds in the US and abroad, consumers have become more aware of the need to confront the problem of global warming through their purchasing decisions. By enabling a greener Internet – a service we all use constantly – it will be that much easier to transition to a renewably-powered economy as soon as possible. There is a browser extension for Chrome that allows users to view a website’s environmental rating before visiting, in addition the report published by Greenpeace detailing each tech company’s “Click Clean” score. You can even tweet at the company right from the extension. In this case, clean energy is certainly a trend worth following.