ACM Technology Policy Council Releases TechBrief on Computing and Climate Change
November 3, 2021
ACM’s global Technology Policy Council (ACM TPC) has released “ACM TechBrief: Computing and Climate Change,” a concise report outlining the energy consumed by the information and communication technology (ICT) sector and the climate impacts of the carbon emissions resulting from that energy consumption. One of the report’s key findings is that computing can help mitigate climate change but must first cease contributing to it.
The TechBrief is the first in a series of short technical bulletins by ACM TPC that present scientifically-grounded perspectives on the impact of specific developments or applications of technology. Designed to complement ACM’s activities in the policy arena, the primary goal is to inform rather than advocate for specific policies. Topics under consideration for future TechBriefs include facial recognition, election security, smart cities, and encryption, among others.
The report points out that most analysts estimate that between 1.8% and 3.9% of global carbon emissions are attributable to information and communication technologies activities. This makes the ICT sector’s carbon footprint comparable to, and by some estimates higher than, that of the aviation sector. And most worryingly of all, at a time when all sectors across the global economy are being told to reduce carbon emissions, computing’s carbon footprint is steadily growing.
The ACM TPC believes that now is an opportune time to release a report on this topic, as the energy demands of computing have grown exponentially in recent years.