Why it's time for the global business herd to Think Big about the climate crisis

Let's address the elephant in the room

Visualising your CO2 emissions is hard, so let's put it into elephants.

We need to act now

The climate emergency is real. Are you considering the impact of your IT on the planet?

Opening up the Guardian last week, I was presented with the lead story on the IPCC report on Climate Change. The full report is not for the faint hearted at 1,300+ pages, but they do have a lightweight summary (more my style😉), which at 39 pages, is a bit more palatable. What struck me was the clarity of the data and the message it sends i.e. we all need to get off our rear ends to contribute to fixing this. It’s not someone else's problem, it’s everyone's. 

So where to start? Let's first review my personal lifestyle, habits and patterns. The WWF Footprint calculator (a CTS customer!) suggests my family caused c14 tonnes in 2020 (no flights) and 29.2 tonnes in 2019 (12 flights) of CO2. When you think about that it’s crazy. There is a very large, scary and real physical aspect to this. Equivalence to elephants seems like a good metric, which I can just about visualise in my head.

 

2019 (29.2 tonnes)

2020 (13.8 tonnes)

Equiv 5 elephants!

Equiv 2.3 elephants!

 

However, to consider impact in a broader sense, thinking about my role and the type of company I work in, I wanted to understand how big the problem is and what CTS could do to contribute meaningfully to the resolution. That is beyond just making changes as a private citizen (which I firmly believe in, millions of people saving 14 tonnes each per annum is a very big number!). 

A quick google search shows that globally we emitted 33 Gigatonnes of CO2 (I’m focusing on CO2, but acknowledge methane and nitrogen oxide are both factors here) in 2019, which is 33,000,000,000 tonnes. Yes it’s that big, too many elephants to consider big, but with all large problems, I find it easiest to break things down into smaller chunks which are easier to digest.

I started by thinking about a recent customer, they have circa 900 servers which we’re about to migrate to Google Cloud. The 900 virtual servers are in a colo facility, so this is impacting somewhere around 320kg * 900 = 288 tonnes to 916kg * 900 = 824 tonnes per annum. The range is due to the complexity of calculating the numbers e.g. how efficient was/is their current data centre, does it use ‘green’ electricity, what is the density of virtual to physical servers etc. The point is, it gives us some directional numbers to help frame the conversation. Fancy reducing your impact by 824 tonnes per annum - yes please!

If you then expand/extrapolate this across our customers, you can sketch out the type of impact CTS could have on this problem if we could persuade more of our customers to think big and accelerate their residual servers/applications to Google Cloud via our High Velocity concept. Now the numbers are approx, but I think directionally correct. 

# CTS customers

circa 800

Impact potential >

Conservative Model

On Prem with ‘Green Electricity’

Pessimistic Model

On Prem with Dirty Electricity

# average number of servers left in co-lo / private cloud / on premise

150

(this could be much higher, but decided it was a good conservative number)

# servers to be tackled

120,000

CO2 KG per year per server

320

916

CO2 KG

38,400,000

109,920,000

CO2 Tonnes

38,400

109,920

Elephants Equiv

6,400 

18,320

Ray Household Equiv (based on 2020)

2,742 homes 

7,851 homes

So what would the net impact be? Well using goclimate.com metrics again, we can safely assume using Google Cloud today as net neutral (i.e. they purchase 100% renewable energy + use of offsets) would be 50% improvement i.e. removing between 19,200 to 54,960 tonnes of CO2, as they move to net zero a full 100% improvement, which is remarkable + tangible. 

You can read / watch lots of great content from Google on their website, it’s impressive in scale and also in terms of transparency, this link in particular is well worth a look > another metric GFE%! Effectively you can pick your data center based on GFE% - Oregon, Finland and Iowa lead the way. Kudos. 

In conclusion, I’ve enjoyed researching for this blog post and being able to put some directional targets on the potential impact we at CTS can make. We’ll see if the elephant equivalent metric gains international acceptance, who knows, but what I do hope is that it helps you to start thinking about you and your potential impact to start solving this problem of our generation.

Want to see what Google has to say on this? Read their 24/7 by 2030: Realising a Carbon-free future whitepaper here. 

  

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