Every time you like a Facebook post, watch a YouTube video, stream a Netflix show or make a purchase on Amazon, you are expanding your carbon footprint. Every internet activity involves amounts of data that need to be stored somewhere. Anything that involves images, especially colour ones, generates major data traffic. And as it becomes ever easier to consume online, the more consumption rises. That wouldn’t be an issue if the data centres needed to manage the traffic didn’t consume so much energy.
Data centres have multiplied from almost nothing a decade ago to consuming about 3% of the global electricity supply and accounting for about 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a similar carbon footprint as the airline industry. The quantity of energy consumed by these centres is doubling every four years despite hardware innovations that increase capacity to store data. As a result, data centres are forecast to consume roughly treble the amount of electricity in the next decade.