The US government has sent the IT industry a mixed message – that despite creating centers of ‘obscene’ waste, the industry is better placed than any other to help address the challenge of global warming.
Laying out its estimation of the size of the environmental threat, the US Department of Energy told a UN conference yesterday that global action must be taken now.
There is a broad realization that the time for action is upon us, and that the consequences of inaction will be enormous, said the DoE’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, Andy Karsner. We’re past the point of necessity for very pro-active problem solving, Karsner said. Time is of the essence.
Karsner was speaking at an annual IT infrastructure conference held at the UN headquarters in New York. The agenda for the two-day conference is exclusively focused on the positive impact of IT and communications industries on the environment and on climate change.
Market forces and commercial pressures usually do not encourage companies to take actions addressed solely at long term challenges, Karsner said. But the IT industry has the advantage that power consumption is already an immediate concern for many of its customers, regardless of environmental issues.
No industry is better placed, at the vanguard of market pull and technology push than ICT [Information and Communications Technologies], Karsner concluded.
Although government action will also be essential to establish global strategies, the IT industry can become an example to others. This is not just about how you can transform your industry, but how you can set up a template for others to do the same, he said.
While the IT industry is at the forefront of technological development, there is plenty of room for improvement in energy efficiency in the data center, the US energy chief said.
IT has also been a center of waste, he said, declaring that he had visited many data centers where he had to wear extra clothes to cope with air conditioned temperatures.
That’s an obscene way of saying that we’ve got enough money, let’s just cool the core and see if that works, he said – striking a note about haphazard and unplanned cooling systems and low data center efficiencies that was repeated by other speakers at the conference (see separate story).
Karsner said that the DoE is the world’s largest source of funding for research into the physical sciences, and that power efficiency is the organization’s highest priority for that research.
Many in the audience might have been surprised to hear that a US government agency is taking global warming so seriously, Karsner acknowledged. You don’t get the whole story when you hear that nothing’s going on in the US, he said.