The Atmospheric Impact of Data Use

Project description

The increasing energy demand of data centers and related climate emissions that can be indirectly attributed to the internet activity of individuals and corporations, the digitalization of society, the use of AI and the Internetof Things (IoT)

Internet and data use today is a significant source of carbon emissions because of the high energy demand of operating data centers. With the strong movement towards increased digitization and data intensive processes, emissions will rise accordingly if left unchecked. Our project highlights the energy demand of data centers linked to data use in Finland, and we quantify the related emissions that can be attributed to the internet activity of individuals and corporations, digitization of society, use of AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). We identify the characteristics of data activity of individuals and corporations that drive most of the energy usage and therefore contribute most to the carbon footprint of data centers. Crucially, agent-based modelling and AI enable us to research how adaptive the system is, and to determine the most effective ways to influence individual data-users in order to decrease the overall carbon emissions.

The goal of this research project is to shed light on the carbon emissions attributed to data use and internet activity, and to find cost-effective means to reduce the carbon footprint of data users. Ultimately, the results should empower data centers to seek ways towards low-carbon development, e.g. by investing in renewable energy.

A local key stakeholder in this project is Oulu University’s flagship program 6G-Enabled Wireless Smart Ecosystem & Society, providing us with understanding of modern ICT infrastructure.

Project coordinator

University of Oulu

People

Nonne Prisle

Nønne Prisle

Associate Professor (tenure)