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How to reduce carbon emissions of the digital sector

4 episodes
  • 1
    “99% of a smartphone's carbon footprint is related to its production”
  • 2
    Internet of Things: 50 billion greenhouse gas producers?
  • 3
    Bitcoin: a simple solution to reduce emissions exists
  • 4
    “Low-carbon computing is possible!”
Épisode 1/4
Sophy Caulier, Independant journalist
On September 22nd, 2021
3 mins reading time
Hugues Ferreboeuf
Hugues Ferreboeuf
Project Director at The Shift Project and Co-founder of Virtus Management

Key takeaways

  • In the digital sector, 45% of energy consumption is due to production of equipment and 55% to its use.
  • Think tank, The Shift Project, has shown that improving the energy efficiency ratio of equipment is not enough to compensate for the increase in digital use.
  • Video downloads now account for 65-70% of global data flows and are responsible for 20% of the sector’s GHG emissions.
  • Marketing and technological techniques (‘addictive design’) of streaming providers such as Netflix encourage viewers to consume more.
  • For Hugues Ferreboeuf, we need to change our economic model and digital resources should be considered as scarce resources.
Épisode 2/4
James Bowers, Chief editor at Polytechnique Insights
On September 22nd, 2021
4 mins reading time
Screenshot 2021-09-22 at 16.33.18
Chantal Taconet
Lecturer in Computer Science at Télécom SudParis (IP Paris)

Key takeaways

  • Between 2015 and 2019, energy consumption of the global digital sector in the world increased by 6.2% per year.
  • In 2010 there were ~1 billion connected devices in the world, which will increase to 50 billion by 2025 and 100 billion in 2030.
  • Half of the energy consumption and subsequent emissions concerns production of objects, the other half their use.
  • Researchers like Chantal Taconet aim to evaluate appropriate lifespans of objects to maximise on the environmental benefits.
  • For her, one solution must be reducing the number of devices in use and on the production of new objects.
Épisode 3/4
James Bowers, Chief editor at Polytechnique Insights
On September 22nd, 2021
4 mins reading time
Jean-Paul Delahaye
Jean-Paul Delahaye
Mathematician and Emeritus Professor at Université de Lille

Key takeaways

  • Originally worth $0, each bitcoin is now worth $43,144 (on 21st September 2021), with a capitalisation of $800bn, representing ~44% value of all crypto-currencies.
  • The release and circulation of bitcoins is operated by a network of computers that works without a central authority (peer-to-peer network).
  • In a process known as « mining », bitcoin used a proof of work, which involves a significant expenditure of electricity, where miners can win ~$270,000 (on 21st September 2021).
  • Jean-Paul Delahaye estimates bitcoin energy consumption at 31TWh/year, equivalent to four nuclear reactors.
  • To reduce this energy consumption, the network could move away from a proof-of-work protocol – such as those used by other cryptocurrencies – but it is unlikely to happen as there is little incentive for bitcoin holders.
Épisode 4/4
Sophy Caulier, Independant journalist
On September 22nd, 2021
3 mins reading time
Qarnot – QL5 bis
Quentin Laurens
Director of External and International Relations at Qarnot Computing

Key takeaways

  • Founded in 2010, Qarnot Computing uses warmth emitted by computer servers to heat buildings.
  • The company now also offers a digital boiler that produces hot water at over 60°C.
  • They estimate that they can reduce CO2 emissions by 81% compared to conventional data centre models.
  • New sectors are interested in the technology, especially in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, fluid mechanics software and medical research.
  • Qarnot Computing also plans to sell the boiler as a stand-alone solution in the near future, meaning that a customer could buy a boiler and use it both for computing and for heating water.

Contributors

Sophy Caulier

Sophy Caulier

Independant journalist

Sophy Caulier has a degree in Literature (University Paris Diderot) and in Computer science (University Sorbonne Paris Nord). She began her career as an editorial journalist at 'Industrie & Technologies' and then at 01 Informatique. She is now a freelance journalist for daily newspapers (Les Echos, La Tribune), specialised and non-specialised magazines and websites. She writes about digital technology, economics, management, industry and space. Today, she writes mainly for Le Monde and The Good Life.

James Bowers

James Bowers

Chief editor at Polytechnique Insights

James Bowers has a PhD in molecular biology from the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle and an MSc in Science Media Production from Imperial College London. He has six years of experience creating engaging scientific media in digital, TV and other outlets in the UK and France. Most recently, James worked as a science communication consultant and trainer for a French agency, Agent Majeur, for three years where he co-authored the book, Sell Your Research: Public Speaking for Scientists published by Springer.