Greenpeace Links Apple iPad to Global Warming

A Greenpeace report questions the degree to which the Apple iPad and mobile devices that similarly rely on cloud computing are contributing to global warming. It also calls on IT leaders such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft to take the lead in pursuing critical climate-change goals.

A March 30 report from Greenpeace associates the Apple iPad with global warming, as the activist organization seeks to raise new questions about the environmental effects of cloud computing.
The term suggests a move to put less-robust devices in the hands of consumers, eliminating the need for massive data storage or processing power by instead storing information or running applications in "the cloud" through an Internet connection, as Google does with its widely used Gmail and Google Docs services. The reality of these services, however, involves an intense demand for energy at the server farms powering each company's cloud.
According to Greenpeace, if "data centers and telecommunication networks, the two key components of the cloud," continue to grow at current rates, by 2020 they'll consume "over half the current electricity consumption of the United States-or more than France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined."
"As the cloud grows, the IT industry's appetite for energy will only increase, so the industry must become strong advocates for renewable energy solutions and strong laws that cut global warming pollution," Casey Harrell, a Greenpeace International campaigner, said in a statement.
"IT companies like Microsoft, Google and IBM are now in powerful positions at the local, national and international levels to influence policies that will allow them to grow responsibly in a way that will decouple their economic growth from rising greenhouse gas emissions," Harrell continued.
With growing cloud-computing needs, in preparation for the iPad, Apple purchased a data center in South Carolina that Technology Business Research analyst Ezra Gottheil told eWEEK is "much larger than its existing facilities."
Facebook also recently announced it will be building a data center in Prineville, Ore., which "will run primarily on coal." In doing so, it missed an opportunity, Greenpeace said, to encourage the use of renewable energy. Offering an example, Yahoo, however, built a data center outside of Buffalo, NY., which is partly powered by energy from a hydroelectric power plant.
"The ICT sector holds many of the keys to reaching our climate goals by innovating solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency," Harrell said. "Technologies that enable smart grids, zero-emissions buildings and more efficient transport systems are central to efforts to combat climate change. But ... given the projected size of the cloud at current pace, IT must also get their own carbon footprint under control."
Greenpeace stated on its site that it's not really "picking on Apple" or "dissing the iPad," but trying to ask the important questions.
"Apple is the master of promotion, and while we marvel at the sleek unpolluted design of the iPad, we need to think about where this is all leading," Greenpeace wrote, "and how like all good surfers we can make sure our environment stays clean and green."
The Greenpeace report, "Make IT Green: Cloud Computing and Its Contribution to Climate Change," is available as a free download on the company's site.