** The problem:
* By 2040 emissions from computing alone will be close to half the emissions level acceptable to keep global warming below 2°C. This growth in computing emissions is unsustainable: it would make it virtually impossible to meet the emissions warming limit.
* The emissions from production of computing devices far exceed the emissions from operating them, so even if devices are more energy efficient producing more of them will make the emissions problem worse. Therefore we must extend the useful life of our computing devices.
** The solution:
As a society we need to start treating computational resources as finite and precious, to be utilised only when necessary, and as effectively as possible. We need frugal computing: achieving the same results for less energy.
** The vision: please read the article, I'm out of characters.
@categorille Thank you for reading it, and for saying so. I really hope I'll be able to make a contribution with this.
I have been reading sustainability reports of some hosting providers and mostly they talk only about efficiency (= less idling servers, newer servers, and less cooling)... but #sustainability contains also consistency (which servers do I buy, which energy do I consume, which buildings do I have) and sufficiency ("less is more"/use only when necessary)
Though, the reports I liked the most:
- https://www.hostsharing.net/ziele/digitale-nachhaltigkeit/ (it's German only; they explicitly say that they run their hardware as long as possible and if they buy new hardware, then based on sustainability aspects, too)
- ungleich.ch (I believe their message, but they are small...)
(maybe you have some other good examples)
But here again hosting providers are just the tip of the iceberg and relying on other resources like network, buildings, hardware vendors, cooling...
@dmbaturin @aligyie @greenfediverse
In general for computing devices, servers as well as desktops or laptops, the total emissions from production exceed those from operation over a currently typical lifetime. So upgrading too soon to newer servers results in net higher emissions.
Of course the economic argument is different: it will reduce your power bill.
4 problems i see when replacing hardware too often:
1. the replaced hardware will still be used by some third party vendors. So, the overall consumption is growing and growing, which we see in the graphs in wim's article.
2. recycling of computer waste is still a big problem. There are many movies out there like "Sodom", going more into detail. Also we are missing Cradle to Cradle hardware. There is a lot to do to get to a circular economy here. Fairphone did a great job for mobile phones, but great part of the IT world is lacking a similar solution. HP is one of the better ones, but lobbying against right for repair...
3. production of computer hardware is highly complex, requires big fabs and is far from being sustainable, see @wim_v12e 's recent comment.
4. for power consumption we have at least a theoretical solution: wind/sun energy + hydrogen for UPS - but this definitely does not work if we build datacenters like crazy as described in wim's article.
@aligyie @dmbaturin @greenfediverse That's right, the current uptake of renewables is too slow to cover the projected rise in demand for computing. Even nuclear doesn't help, it takes too long to build the extra capacity. So the only current solution is not to use more power. And that will be the case for the next two decades at least, but most likely even longer.
@wim_v12e I'm not a fan of replacing computers every 2 years and I like the idea of aiming to increase computers' lifespan, but the part about eventually stopping to produce new computers sounds pretty dangerous.
If we stop making computers, we will soon forget how to make them. The only people capable of doing it will die, the infrastructure will fall apart or get sold for scrap. We will end up relying on a technology nobody understands. That's very fragile IMO.
@wolf480pl That is a very interesting point. It is not quite as dramatic as that though. With my assumptions it would take several centuries to get there. And I am not saying that we should not make computers anymore, only that when you've made one it could be expected to last forever. Of course there will still be devices that fail an can't be repaired
And I don't quite agree that not making something means the knowledge will be forgotten. The fact that we need to be able to repair them means we need to know how they work.
@wolf480pl In particular, CPUs and memory don't last forever, there are physical limits (electromigration etc), so we'll have to keep producing ICs, only fewer and use them for much longer. And we'll need devices where we can replace the ICs, like in the good old days of yore ^_^
@wim_v12e @wolf480pl another option i see is that until we have developed this magical "everlasting hardware" we probably have although developed better ways of recycling, it will still take a huge amount of energy but the failed or outdated hardware will hopefully provide a big part of the needed resources which currently are ripped out of the earth and thave other non CO2 impacts on the environment.
@wim_v12e thanks for writing this eye(further)opening article!
the environmental impact of computing is one of the reasons why I struggele with pursuing an "IT-career"
On one side i am amazed about what is possible and like to tinker arround with hard&software but on the other aide i am just scared how carelessly most IT-folks are showing off with their always bleeding edge hardware and litterally throwing it arround or abusing it with totally useless inefficcent software.
@glowl Thanks for reading it! There is really a huge need for change in attitude on all sides: manufactures, tech companies, IT people and end users. I am a computing scientists so I work on the technical side but the sociological and economical aspects are actually more important.
@wim_v12e if i find the time i would like to translate the article into german, i know a few people who could benefit from reading it but aren't particularly fluent in english.
would that be ok for you?
@glowl Yes of course. My German is not good enough to write it but I'll be able to read the translation just fine. Thanks!
@wim_v12e Very nice article :) I especially liked the structure and that you gave a summary in the beginning. This makes reading much easier for me.