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From Kyoto to Bali to Copenhagen

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DQW Bureau
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Climatologists Jack Hall and Jason Evans are huddled together inside a tent,

with the weather outside plummeting quite many notches below zero. Hall is on

his way from Washington DC to New York, to save his son from the cataclysmic

climate conditions. When Evans strikes up a rather gloomy conversation.

Evans: What's going to happen to us?

Hall: What do you mean?

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Evans: I mean “us”. Civilization. Everyone.

Hall: Mankind survived the last ice age. We're certainly capable of

surviving this one. The only question is, will we be able to learn from our

mistakes?

“Agreed we goofed up, but are we doing anything about it?” The Day After

Tomorrow, the big budget Hollywood movie, raised this pertinent question. In

some 124 minutes, the film depicted the horrors of global warming. For the first

time people got talking about these issues, about how the earth was getting

warmer each passing year, how the polar ice cap was melting, how the seas were

rising, how the Himalayas were dissipating, how there were more hurricanes in

Gulf of Mexico or why there was record rainfall in Mumbai on July 26, 2005.

There were so many questions, but not many answers.

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The United Nations Climate

Change Conference held in Bali is an effort to bring nations together to

come to agreements on greenhouse gas reduction targets

That was till February last year, when the chairman of Intergovernmental

Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, made a rather dour prediction, that

the average temperature could rise as much as 4°C by the end of this century. He

also predicted an increase in heat waves and the tropical storm intensity. And

for once he settled the matter, as to who was to be blamed for all; “Human”, he

said.

In the pursuit of plenty, we have cared little for the ill effects. From more

cars on the streets to more transistors on the chip, humanity, in their immense

greed for more, has done little for environment. But there seems to be a shift,

a small but a sure shift. Finally, we begin to examine, what needs to be done

vis-à-vis what should be done.

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From Kyoto to Bali



The first definitive move was made in 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was

agreed upon. The protocol specifically spoke of reducing greenhouse gases that

cause climate change. Till November 2007, 174 Countries have ratified the

protocol. Of these, thirty-six developed countries (plus the EU as a party in

its own right) are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels

specified for each of them in the treaty. One hundred and thirty-seven

developing countries have ratified the protocol, including Brazil, China, and

India, but have no obligation beyond monitoring and reporting emissions. But,

since the US was not a signatory to the same, there were many issues about

effectivity of the treaty.

The next big step was the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in

Bali, Indonesia, in December 2007. Herein, the participating nations adopted the

Bali roadmap as a two-year process to finalizing a binding agreement in 2009 in

Copenhagen, Denmark. Bali is meant to be a stepping-stone for the final step

when all nations would commit themselves to binding agreements on greenhouse gas

reduction targets.

The IT Angle



So, what does Kyoto, Bali, or for that matter Copenhagen portend for the IT

industry? A lot, if you read the asterisks. So far, much of the talk on

emissions and carbon credits has centered on pollution and aviation. But then,

the IT datacenter and the computer in general is no less a culprit. According to

a study by the UK government, companies can save up to $100 per PC per year in

energy costs by simply seeing to that they are switched off when not in use. The

data center consolidation can save quite much more. For instance, a Butler Group

report found that by consolidating 250 dual-core servers on to 25 more powerful

dual-core servers, an organization could save close to $280,000 per year in

energy costs alone.

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There have been talks that in the near future, there will be carbon emissions

cap on organizations, thereby calling for a detailed study on the carbon

footprint of each company. As a precautionary measure, companies need to

consider the power and cooling impact that IT datacenters have, and adopt new

technologies that can significantly reduce their use of energy, and hence the

carbon footprint. According to experts, virtualization is one such technology

that both a CIO and a CEO should take an active interest in.

Markets are abuzz with the speculation that government regulation on power

saving is on the way. Many speculate that the same will come from EU, which is

seen most active when it comes to environmental best practices. Once such

legislations are in place, companies would have to chart their own carbon

footprint and look at ways of reducing the costs.

Eco-friendly IT



In such a scenario, IT departments can take the lead within organizations,

and create a new role for themselves in the process, by enabling organizations

to be proactive in reducing energy consumption, and hence reduce their carbon

footprint.

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Also, much of the Indian IT industry is export oriented, hence going green

can be a way to distinguish self in front of the clients, especially the

American ones. Companies in the US have become very conscious to green issues

due to a high level of public interest or out of social responsibility. Hence,

an Indian IT firm could opt for green PR and showcase itself as an eco-friendly

company.

When the Kyoto Protocol had come into play, countries like China and India

were exempt from making any commitment in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. But

by the time the talks shift to Copenhagen in two years, both the economic giants

will be under pressure to do something substantial. The best option for Indian

companies would be to start now itself. When Pachauri had presented the IPCC

report last year, he had warned that, “what we do in the next two to three years

will determine our future”. Time is running out on us, and the earlier we start

doing something about it the better. Remember, every small thing counts, be it

using the CFL bulb, or saving through a power-efficient server. Nothing is too

big or small, when it comes to saving our earth.

Shashwat DC

shashwatc@cybermedia.co.in

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