New technologies – When digital disrupts the climate

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The publication of the latest IPCC climate report clearly indicates that digital technology is on the way to becoming one of the most polluting industrial sectors. And according to an MIT study, training an artificial intelligence program would emit as much CO2 as the continuous use of five cars over their lifetime.

(Rebroadcast March 20, 2022)

Our bulimia for data and the poorly controlled Web contributes more and more to carbon emissions in the world. In question, the objects that we use on a daily basis, such as computers and smartphones, but also connected TVs. The same is true for dematerialized computing, known as the cloud, deployed in recent years in server farms, which have greatly increased the density of data traffic on the networks. But a new subject worries climatologists: that of the massive adoption by large companies of artificial intelligence programs used to treat the constant flow of billions of pieces of information passing through the Internet. The electricity required for this computing power is produced for the most part by power plants burning fossil fuels. Preserving the advantages brought by technologies while limiting their environmental impacts is possible, explains Mehdi Chouiten, co-founder of Datategy, an online platform that specializes in the management ecological » of these AI programs.

The idea is not to delete all our digital activities today, of course, and no one is currently campaigning in this direction. On the other hand, we must become aware of the problem and raise awareness both of the end users of the technologies, but also of the engineers who designed the web platforms, the data centers and the systems using artificial intelligence programs. The energy consumption of commissioning and training a single specialized algorithm, for example, in natural language processing on a computer server (like those that remotely control our connected speakers, editor’s note) generates permanently as many carbon emissions as five cars driving their lifetime. But a little subtlety, when you turn on your vehicle’s engine, you can directly see these polluting emissions coming out of the exhaust, whereas when you click on the button on a web page, it’s totally invisible and will ultimately generate more CO2 emissions than many other everyday uses, which we nevertheless consider to be particularly polluting. At Datategy, we have set up an online AI management platform for companies that allows trade-offs between storage, computing time and data accessibility to streamline the deployment of these AI programs. artificial intelligence. Our goal is for companies to use these technologies in a reasoned way, in full awareness of their environmental impact and with eco-designed software. »

This culture of digital sobriety, which is slowly being put in place in companies, is at the poles apart from ever-increasing personal use what we do with our electronic devices. While digital represents today 4% of global greenhouse gas emissionssome studies indicate that this figure is likely to double by 2025 if we do not control our unbridled consumption of data now.

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New technologies – When digital disrupts the climate


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