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AI Energy Demand Drives Google’s Emissions Up 48% in Five Years

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05 Jul, 2024

This post was originally published on Eco Watch

Google’s goal of lowering its carbon footprint is in trouble as the technology company’s energy consumption has increased due to the amount of power needed for artificial intelligence (AI) data centers.

According to the internet giant’s annual environmental report, its greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 13 percent in the past year, due mostly to the AI data centers and supply chains, reported The Guardian. The report said its 2023 emissions had reached 14.3 metric tons.

“As we further integrate AI into our products, reducing emissions may be challenging due to increasing energy demands from the greater intensity of AI compute, and the emissions associated with the expected increases in our technical infrastructure investment,” the report said.

The internet company has a goal of cutting its total greenhouse gas emissions by half by the end of the decade and using carbon removal to tackle its remaining emissions output, The Hill reported.

Since 2019, Google’s emissions have risen by 48 percent, the report said.

“Reaching net-zero emissions by 2030 is an extremely ambitious goal and we know it won’t be easy. Our approach will continue to evolve and will require us to navigate significant uncertainty — including the uncertainty around the future environmental impact of AI, which is complex and difficult to predict. In addition, solutions for some key global challenges don’t currently exist, and will depend heavily on the broader clean energy transition,” the report stated.

According to estimates from the International Energy Agency, the total electricity consumption by Google’s data centers could be twice those of 2022 levels — 1,000 terawatt hours — in 2026, which is roughly the electricity demand of Japan, The Guardian reported.

The manufacturing and transportation of computer chips and servers needed for use in data center training and deployment also produce a great deal of emissions. AI data centers will use 4.5 percent of the world’s energy by 2030, research firm SemiAnalysis said.

A Google data center in Belgium. Google

Another issue with the AI explosion is water use, with one study saying AI could lead to the water usage equivalent to almost two-thirds of England’s annual consumption by 2027.

Co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates said big tech companies being “seriously willing” to use green energy to power AI would help tackle the climate crisis. The companies have become big investors in renewable energy in an effort to achieve their climate targets.

“AI is at an inflection point and many factors will influence its ultimate impact — including the extent of AI adoption, our ability to mitigate its footprint, and the pace of continued innovation and efficiency,” the Google report said. “While we remain optimistic about AI’s potential to drive positive change, we’re also clear-eyed about its potential environmental impact and the collaborative effort required to navigate this evolving landscape.”

The post AI Energy Demand Drives Google’s Emissions Up 48% in Five Years appeared first on EcoWatch.

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Call for nationwide mattress recycling

Call for nationwide mattress recycling

A survey by not-for-profit mattress recycler Soft Landing Mattress Recycling has found that a majority of Australian respondents would be prepared to pay more when purchasing a new mattress if the retailer collected and recycled their old one.

The ‘Mattresses Matter’ Sustainability Survey revealed a high degree of concern about mattress sustainability, with 93% of Australian consumers saying they would be more likely to purchase a new mattress from a retailer that collects and recycles their old one.

Of the 1016 people surveyed, 62% said that sustainability was important when purchasing a new mattress, and 93% were eager to recycle their end-of-life mattresses responsibly to avoid landfill. 96% said it was important for their local council to provide a free mattress collection and recycling service through an approved recycler.

While only 26% have used a mattress recycling service in the past, 65% would like to use one in the future. According to respondents, the top three barriers to mattress recycling are lack of recycling services (58%), uncertainty of services available (54%) and cost (33%).

To remove these barriers and stop mattresses going to landfill for good, Soft Landing, an Australian Bedding Stewardship Council (ABSC) approved recycler, is calling for retailers and councils nationwide to partner with them to provide a mattress collection and recycling service to all Australians.

Soft Landing General Manager David Petrie said that 1.8 million old mattresses are disposed of each year in Australia. “Of these, it is estimated that over 740,000 end up in landfill. This equates to 5500 average elephants or nearly 2500 compactor trucks,” he said.

“They take up enormous amounts of space and contribute significantly to environmental pollution; it’s 22,000 tonnes of needless waste that can be reduced through responsible recycling, so it’s encouraging to see such positive consumer attitudes towards mattress recycling in Australia.”

Petrie said Soft Landing partnered with many progressive councils and retailers to provide Australians with an accessible mattress collection and recycling service but there was still much to do. “Australians are saying they’ll use mattress recycling services if they’re available — so why not give them the chance?”

ABSC CEO Kylie Roberts-Frost said that mattresses were included in the Minister’s Product Stewardship Priority List for 2023–2024 due to the significant environmental challenge they pose. “The data from Soft Landing highlights the critical need for a coordinated industry effort to address this issue comprehensively,” she said.

“Our objective is to see mattresses designed for longevity and recyclability, ensuring valuable materials are reused and waste is minimised, where reuse is not an option. This aligns with the growing consumer demand for sustainable outcomes.”

Roberts-Frost added that collaboration between ABSC-approved recyclers like Soft Landing, retailers and local councils was vital. “These partnerships will not only help reduce the number of mattresses ending up in landfills but also support consumers who are keen to make environmentally responsible choices,” she said.

“By working together, manufacturers, retailers and councils can play a pivotal role in creating a more sustainable future for the mattress industry.”

To view the full Mattresses Matter – Sustainability Survey Report, visit: https://softlanding.com.au/mattressesmatterreport/.

Image caption: Soft Landing is a national not-for-profit social enterprise and registered charity that collects and recycles mattresses to keep waste out of landfill while creating jobs for people experiencing barriers to work.

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