Contribution of Computerisation in Climate Change – UPSC GS3

How computerization and technology adoption is contributing to climate change?
  • A UN study revealed that the manufacture of one desktop computer took 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1,500 kg of water.
  • A University of Massachusetts team calculated that training one model for natural-language processing emits 626,155 pounds of carbon dioxide, what 125 New York–Beijing round trips will produce.
  • OpenAI has estimated that the computing used to train a single AI model is increasing by a factor of 10 every year.
  • Hundreds of data centres that Google, Microsoft and others use water and power at alarming rates. As per reports, data centres consume 200 terawatt hours per year. This is roughly the same amount as South Africa, and is likely to grow 4-5 times by 2030, which would put it on par with Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest energy consumer.
  • Semiconductor chips: A fabrication unit takes $20 billion to build and need 2-4 million gallons of ultra-pure water per day, roughly equal to the needs of an American city of 50,000 people.
  • Carbon footprint of the world’s computational infrastructure has matched that of the aviation industry at its peak, and it is increasing at a faster rate.
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