Interesting and timely blog from South West Creative Technology (SWCTN) Data fellow Corinne Stuart, an engineer/maker with experience in both automotive and product design. Through the fellowship she will explore the true environmental impact of our data usage.
Yes, we are not flying, driving, shopping as we were a few months ago but we are increasing consumption in other ways. The Covid-19 lockdown has driven up broadband and cellular internet usage to twice its usual levels (OpenReach). Working and educating remotely, streaming services and video calls are all up as we are stuck inside with our screens.
Digital data consumption is often removed from the impact it has on the environment, romanticised with words like the cloud and streaming, it seems like part of the water cycle, natural, harmless.
The reality is warehouse-like Data Centres full of temperature conditioned electronics around the world, in addition to cables,data exchanges and billions of personal devices, all material and energy dense. Current figures are the internet emits 1BN tonnes of greenhouse gases in a year (Science Focus), more than the airline industry did in 2018 at 917MN tonnes (ICCT). If this is now doubling in usage, that should not be ignored.