Report: Smart 2020 - enabling the low carbon economy in the information age
"Microchips also have positive effects on the environment, by making other activities and processes more efficient. This is the subject of a publication by the Climate Group, an initiative of more than 50 of the world's largest companies. The report ("Smart 2020 - enabling the low carbon economy in the information age") confirms the findings of other studies regarding the electricity use of electronic equipment, but also calculates the benefits.
According to Smart 2020, the emissions from Information and Communications Technology (including the energy use of data centres, which the IEA report does not include) will rise from 0.5 Gt CO2-equivalents in 2002 to 1.4 GtCO2-equivalents in 2020, assuming that the sector will continue to make the "impressive advances in energy efficiency that it has done previously". By enabling energy efficiencies in other sectors, however, ICT could deliver carbon savings 5 times larger: 7.8 Gt CO2-equivalents in 2020.
These benefits are smart grids (2.03 Gt), smart buildings (1.86 Gt), smart motor systems (970 Mt), dematerialisation and substitution (by replacing high carbon physical products and activities such as books and meetings - with virtual low carbon equivalents such as electronic commerce, electronic government, videoconferencing, 500 Mt) and smart logistics (225 Mt). One of the first tasks of ICT will be to monitor energy consumption and emissions across the economy in real time, providing the data needed to optimise for energy efficiency.
The report concludes: "The scale of emission reductions that could be enabled by the smart integration of ICT into new ways of operating living, working, learning and travelling, makes the sector a key player in the fight against climate change, despite its own growing footprint." (http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/06/embodied-energy-of-digital-technology.html)
The rest of the article cites the enormous ecological cost of our digital infrastructure, see http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/06/embodied-energy-of-digital-technology.html