Public awareness of environmental issues seems to have increased exponentially over the past ten years or so. Campaigns have varied from protests against petrol giants to documentaries by vice presidents to pressure on data centres, so it's not surprising that climate change press coverage has been continuous.
The causes of global warming remain the burning of fossil fuels and changes to land use, such as deforestation. Society will always need energy and the IT industry has a role to play in maximising the efficiency of energy use and making sure we do everything we can to fight back against climate change while we still have the ability to do so.
It's not easy being green
ICT, as a whole, is estimated to contribute around 2.5 per cent of global carbon emissions, which may not seem disastrous but is actually at the same level as the airline industry.
We are faced with a double-edged sword as the more we develop, the more energy we need and the more pollution is produced. McKinsey has reported the IT industry's carbon footprint is well on its way to trebling from the levels recorded in 2002. It's shocking that despite the huge advancements made in technology, still not enough is being done to reduce this, or at least people don't seem to grasp the importance of lowering our energy consumption. For example, solar energy collection has been around for centuries, and solar generation of electricity has been around for years, yet if you look at the houses on your street there may be only a handful with solar panels fixed to their roofs, if any at all.
The future's bright, the future's green
Sadly, we aren't in a position where consumers see the latest green technology and instantly flock to buy it - it just doesn't work like that. It's easier in the business world, where financial analysis is clearer and government and industry bodies can introduce schemes which offer clear incentives for aligning themselves with the green agenda. For example, in the data centre world, the European Commission's RenewIT initiative aims for 80 per cent of the industry to be powered by renewable and sustainable resources. It shows we all have a part to play in cutting pollution as data centres still have work to do in maximising their energy usage efficiency.
With that in mind, the government needs to work out exactly how to persuade the masses to get behind the cause without being seen to force it upon us - after all, telling people they have no choice but to buy environmentally friendly technology, which probably costs them more, would alienate voters, and no politician will knowingly go down that road. Incentivising the green agenda could turn into a political nightmare, so there needs to be a step-change in the attitudes people have towards going green.
Perhaps the solution is to scrap the term 'green' altogether. One myth which seems to stop people from buying into environmentally friendly technology is their perception that it's too expensive. If these advancements were simply marketed as 'efficient' perhaps that could offer an increased incentive to invest in new tech by demonstrating to consumers they will save money over time.
It's clear that more needs to be done to combat the impact of climate change and if an incentivised scheme can be put in place to encourage consumers to invest in environmentally friendly tech, the world will be reaping the rewards before you know it.