Hiding greenhouse gas emissions in the cloud
Published (updated: ) in Academic Papers, Cloud, Data Center Energy, Environment, IT Energy.
The scientific journal, Nature Climate Change, has published a paper I’ve written about how moving to the cloud can result in greenhouse gas emissions being hidden.
Due to the copyright license I cannot publish it here for 6 months but you can read it for free on the Nature website.
As I have written this whilst I’m at the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London, they have also published an interview with me about the paper.
Data centres account for 1% of total global electricity demand but this may grow to between 15-30% of electricity consumption in some countries by 2030. The majority of this growth is attributed to cloud computing, particularly the larg-est “hyperscale” vendors. IT emissions previously accounted for under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Scope 1 and Scope 2 move to Scope 3 when outsourced to the cloud. However, the data needed to complete those calculations is not available from cloud vendors. Further, since Scope 3 emissions tend to be reported only voluntarily and the emissions are aggregated into the global emissions reporting by the large cloud vendors, this can result in emissions being hidden when they are moved to the cloud.
Mytton, D. Hiding greenhouse gas emissions in the cloud. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0837-6