Chasing Carbon: The Elusive Environmental Footprint of Computing

Udit Gupta, Young Geun Kim, Sylvia Lee, Jordan Tse, Hsien Hsin S. Lee, Gu Yeon Wei, David Brooks, Carole Jean Wu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Given recent algorithm, software, and hardware innovation, computing has enabled a plethora of new applications. As computing becomes increasingly ubiquitous, however, so does its environmental impact. This paper brings the issue to the attention of computer-systems researchers. Our analysis, built on industry-reported characterization, quantifies the environmental effects of computing in terms of carbon emissions. Broadly, carbon emissions have two sources: operational energy consumption, and hardware manufacturing and infrastructure. Although carbon emissions from the former are decreasing thanks to algorithmic, software, and hardware innovations that boost performance and power efficiency, the overall carbon footprint of computer systems continues to grow. This work quantifies the carbon output of computer systems to show that most emissions related to modern mobile and data-center equipment come from hardware manufacturing and infrastructure. We therefore outline future directions for minimizing the environmental impact of computing systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceeding - 27th IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2021
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
Pages854-867
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780738123370
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event27th Annual IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2021 - Virtual, Seoul, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Feb 27 2021Mar 1 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Symposium on High-Performance Computer Architecture
Volume2021-February
ISSN (Print)1530-0897

Conference

Conference27th Annual IEEE International Symposium on High Performance Computer Architecture, HPCA 2021
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of
CityVirtual, Seoul
Period2/27/213/1/21

Keywords

  • Data center
  • carbon footprint
  • energy
  • mobile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hardware and Architecture

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