Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage Podcasts Jason Box and Paul Johnston on What Technologists can do about Climate Change

Jason Box and Paul Johnston on What Technologists can do about Climate Change


In this podcast recorded at QCon London 2019, Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Jason Box and Paul Johnston about the impact climate change is having, how information technology contributes to greenhouse gasses and what technologists can do to help combat it.

Key Takeaways

  • Climate change is the challenge of our time
  • Data centers are a real problem IRO global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Data centers have the same emissions impact as the aviation industry
  • There is an initiative to have all data centers using sustainable power sources by 2024
  • Data center demand is set to increase by 5 times by 2025
  • The initiative is planting trees to capture carbon

Show Notes

  • 00:31 Jason Introduction – 25 years researching the Greenland ice shelf
  • 01:00 Climate change is the challenge of our time
  • 01:15 Their talk was the highest rated of the day at the conference
  • 01:48 Paul introduction – CTO and technologist
  • 02:42 Data centers are a real problem IRO global warming and greenhouse gas emissions
  • 02:58 The findings in the Greenland ice research – it is more sensitive to climate change than was previously thought
  • 03:16 The various factors which are contributing to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet
  • 03:44 The ice tells a story – we just have to listen
  • 03:54 The bottom-line importance of the ice shelves is sea-level rise
  • 04:04 We are already committed to more than one meter of sea-level rise
  • 04:14 The impact of even one meter of sea level rise, combined with high tides and storm surges results in flooding events like what happened with Hurricane Sandy in New York, at a cost of approx. US$50 billion
  • 04:35 There are places where we can’t build sea-walls due to the nature of the bedrock
  • 04:52 Sea-level rise will impact hundreds of global cities and could result in mass-displacement of millions of coastal inhabitants
  • 05:20 The political and societal impacts of climate events
  • 05:30 The immediate impacts of climate change are drought - examples of recent political events, such as the conflict in Syria, that have been at least partially caused by drought
  • 05:57 The impact of global food price commodity spikes as a result of drought
  • 06:12 This is a catastrophic threat
  • 06:30 Responding to “what can I do?”
  • 06:47 Simple things that you can do to lower your carbon footprint –
    • Go on to a plant-based diet, or reduce your meat consumption
    • Convert to green energy
  • 07:14 The individual changes don’t have a significant impact – what will have an impact is corporate changes
  • 07:26 There are things that the tech community can influence and adopt
  • 07:58 The impact that data centers have on global carbon emissions
  • 08:14 Where a data center is based has an impact because of the electricity generation needed to power them
  • 08:27 If you use the cloud or use a data center you are emitting carbon
  • 08:37 As an industry we can tell the providers of data centers to use sustainable power
  • 08:45 The Sustainable Servers by 2025 petition
  • 09:12 The current power profiles of the three main cloud service providers
  • 09:30 AWS currently has four regions which are sustainably powered, but their main region is not sustainably powered
  • 10:00 AWS has a commitment to be 100% sustainably powered at some point
  • 10:18 Microsoft Azure offset their power consumption 100%, largely using carbon certificates 
  • 10:57 Google is suburb – they try to offset carbon production on an hourly basis using local renewable electricity; they are the largest corporate buyer of renewable electricity in the world
  • 11:54 The impact of bitcoin on global power consumption
  • 12:56 A large number of bitcoin miners are in China and the Chinese electricity grid is predominantly coal-powered
  • 13:24 A single bitcoin transaction results in roughly 193kg of carbon emission – the same as driving a fuel-efficient car from London to Edenborough and back (~800 miles)
  • 14:10 Bitcoin mining uses roughly the same amount of electricity per day as the whole of Singapore
  • 14:42 The potential of using the melt-water in Greenland lakes to generate sustainable electricity to power data centers
  • 15:50 There is potential for 500GW hours of electricity potential waiting to be tapped
  • 16:25 Describing the Sustainable Servers 2024 initiative
  • 16:27 Data centers have the same emissions impact as the aviation industry
  • 16:52 Individuals and organizations can influence cloud providers to move to sustainable power
  • 17:48 To stabilize climate we need to not just stop emissions, we need to draw down about 500BN tons of carbon from the atmosphere
  • 18:08 Carbon offset by planting trees in southern Greenland
  • 18:32 Anyone can offset their emissions via
  • 18:53 The initial funding goal is US$40000
  • 19:05 The initiative involves the Greenland youth to do the planting
  • 19:48 The trees will stand far beyond any of our lifetimes as a legacy to the contributors of today
  • 20:18 Data center energy consumption is currently equal to aviation, and data center demand is set to increase by 5 times by 2025
  • 20:48 This is a planning crisis – how do we provide 5 x the equivalent of global aviation power consumption by 2025?
  • 21:01 Offsetting your flights is a sensible and easy thing to do


More about our podcasts

You can keep up-to-date with the podcasts via our RSS Feed, and they are available via SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast and the Google Podcast. From this page you also have access to our recorded show notes. They all have clickable links that will take you directly to that part of the audio.

Previous podcasts

Rate this Article