Laboratoire d'informatique de l'École polytechnique

Is digital technology evolution in line with the Paris agreements?

Speaker: Chantal Taconet (Télécom SudParis)
Location: Grace Hopper room
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2024, 13:00-14:00

The seminar presents a synthesis of two research articles [1, 2] that set out the context and issues surrounding the environmental impact of digital technology and question the capability of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector to keep their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the Paris Agreement. The first paper 1 analyzes the recent evolution of energy and carbon footprints from three ICT activity sub-sectors: semiconductor manufacturing, wireless Internet access and datacenter usage. By adopting a Kaya-like decomposition in technology affluence and efficiency factors, they find out that the KPI increase failed to reach an absolute decoupling with respect to total energy consumption because the technology affluence increases more than the efficiency. The same conclusion holds for GHG emissions except for datacenters, where recent investment in renewable energy sources lead to an absolute GHG reduction over the last years, despite a moderate energy increase. The paper concludes that aligning direct GHG emissions of the ICT sector on a trajectory compatible with Paris agreement requires sobriety in addition to efficiency. The second paper 2 analyzes three family of estimations of ICT impacts highlighting their different assumptions. They also evaluate the consequences of three ICT trends: Big Data and AI, Blockchain and IoT in regards with their environmental impacts. The paper details three reasons for anticipating that ICT emissions are actually going to increase without intervention. Finally, they suggest a framework dedicated to the ICT sector that would enable to limit the environmental impacts of the ICT sector.

The seminar will also be the opportunity to present Telecom SudParis’s experience in terms of research and teaching in the domain of green digital technology.

Bio: Chantal Taconet is a lecturer at Télécom SudParis in the Computer Science department and the SAMOVAR laboratory. Her research focuses on distributed systems and software engineering and is applied on designing middleware for the Internet of Things. Since 2019, the measurement and awareness of the environmental impact of digital technology is at the heart of her teaching and research.

References: [1] Moore’s Law and ICT Innovation in the Anthropocene.David Bol, Thibault Pirson and Rémi Dekimpe DATE Design, Automation & Test in Europe Conference & Exhibition [2] Charlotte Freitag, Mike Berners-Lee, Kelly Widdicks, Bran Knowles, Gordon S. Blair, Adrian Friday, The real climate and transformative impact of ICT: A critique of estimates, trends, and regulations, Patterns, Volume 2, Issue 9, 2021,100340, ISSN 2666-3899,