Professor Richard Hawkins of the Calgary University in Alberta, Canada is a prominent figure in tech-policy and is currently driving a movement to show that the majority of 'green IT' initiatives are not working and a different course of action needed.
“Most of the negative environmental impacts [of IT] occur in the form of completely unintended, second and third order effects. These ‘rebound’ effects may not be mitigated by inventing ‘greener’ IT products and, indeed, may be intensified by such changes.”
One example that Hawkins presents is mobile phones, claiming that the phone itself has no environmental impacts, but its sole existence encourages people to move around more - by car, plane, boat, etc – than they normally would have without the mobile device which ultimately contributes to carbon emissions and climate change.
“We didn’t adopt the mobile phone so we could drive and talk on the phone, we adopted it because we were already driving so much. Creating a greener cell phone won’t reduce the impact of increased mobility. The real question is what amount of mobility is sustainable?”
That example also, without question, does apply to other technologies such as mobile push email, VoIP, video conferencing, netbooks, the list goes on. Essentially, if you did not have the ability to be ‘mobile’ then you would spend more time sitting in the office being productive and burning less fuel, for example.
Hawkins concerns are not being taken lightly either as he and his team of researchers will be presenting their thoughts at a Euro comms-policy conference in Spain next month as well as to the UN Earth Summit at the end of this year.
More information about Hawkins and his research may be found here.
How do you personally feel about green-IT? For example, efficient power supplies, or power saving motherboards? Do you feel that these are useful? Or do you feel that because of the way you use your rig, power saving features end up being useless?