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Feeding the Beast. Part II: Data and Energy

Talks

Feeding the Beast. Part II: Data and Energy

27 October

06:00 pm - 07:30 pm

La Casa Encendida
Ronda de Valencia, 2
Madrid
28012
Spain

Online activity

The Dark Side of the Cloud: The Environmental Impact of the Virtual

Digital technologies are a key tool for decarbonising the economy but they also devour vast amounts of energy. Every process—including the transfer, processing and storage of data and the production of devices—uses energy, mainly obtained from fossil fuels.

ICT are responsible for between 5% and 9% of global electricity use (nearly 10% in the EU) and around 3% of greenhouse gas emissions (4.2% in the EU). According to the 2022 Strategic Foresight Report, unless digital technologies are made more energy-efficient, their widespread use will increase energy consumption. Their power consumption will continue to grow, driven by the increasing use and production of devices, demand from networks, data centres and crypto assets, as well as by the increased use of online platforms, search engines, virtual reality, and music and video streaming platforms. However, the report also points out that the deployment of next-generation low-power chips and more efficient connectivity technologies (5G and 6G) might reduce the overall footprint of ICT.

Digital services use vast quantities of energy, much of it derived from coal and natural gas. The billions of files generated by the digital society are supported by an enormous network of gigantic data centres operating 24/7. Besides, the growth in data traffic projected for the coming years will drive a constant increase in devices, equipment and infrastructures.

The EU is promoting digitalisation in the belief that it may play a crucial role in achieving climate neutrality, but the energy issue, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the disruption to the supply of Russian gas, may force a shift in priorities. This scenario prompts several questions: Will there be enough energy to supply the digital machine? What type of energy will it use? Will we have to simplify and reduce the use of technologies? Will the scarcity of energy and minerals and the impacts of the digital society on the climate and environment lead to a collapse?

In this session, 5G technology and crypto currencies provide the basis for examining the issue of energy consumption by the cloud and for reflecting on our complex digital society in the face of an energy crisis and the scarcity of mineral resources.

Speakers:

  • Joseph Tainter is an American anthropologist and historian and a lecturer at Utah State University. He is the author of The Collapse of Complex Societies.
  • Antonio Aretxabala is a geologist, researcher, consultant and independent trainer and collaborator of the University of Zaragoza.
  • María Alegre is an expert in energy transition and climate change. She has managed projects in North America, South America and North Africa.

Organised by the Green European Foundation (GEF) in collaboration with Fundación Transición Verde and La Casa Encendida.

The event will be held in a Zoom room. Once you have registered, you will receive a confirmation email with the login details for the event. Simultaneous Spanish-English translation.

Activities Cycle The Dark Side of the Cloud: The Environmental Impact of the Virtual From 20 October to 03 November Open/close cycle

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