Environmental Sustainability of the Internet

The Internet is growing rapidly. There are more and more services, and many of them need high bandwidths. It is estimated, that the Internet grows by 50% in network traffic every year.

To cope with this growth, more and more data centers and other infrastructure have to be built, consuming huge amounts of electric energy and other resources. Not just for their daily operation, but also for their production.

It’s hard to compare and estimate, but the energy consumption is in about the magnitudes of aviation. While their is a shift in direction of using renewable energy to power the Internet’s infrastructure, a large part still uses non-renewable energy like coal power. Thus, the Internet’s energy usage significantly contributes to climate change. On the other side, Internet services may allow to optimize energy and resource usage. Which has a greater effect is again hard to estimate, but that doesn’t mean we should not optimize our services and keep energy consumption low.

To lessen the impact of the Internet on the environment, existing and new services should be optimized for environment sustainability. That especially means that new or existing services should be limited by their requirements in infrastructure, clients and bandwidth usage.