Does The Data Show We Need Green Data Centres?

Peter Judge

An efficient data centre is better than an inefficient one, regardless of how you interpret the latest climate data, says Peter Judge

There are plenty of different kinds of data being handled in our data centres – but does some of that data have a bearing on whether those data centres need t be green or not?

I’m talking about climate data, of course. And there’s just been some more released.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project has had an interesting  history. Set up in response to criticism of the cosy climate change consensus, its brief was to take a properly sceptical view.

Green data centres

Sustainability, green © Cienpies Design Shutterstock 2012It had funding with no strings from sources including the climate sceptic Koch brothers, and would publish all its raw data as well as its methods. It had backing from statisticians – which is important because a lot of the arguments about climate science focus on how well the scientists do statistics.

It is led by Richard Muller, a scientist with a reputation a a sceptic.

The answer that BEST came back with was worth taking seriously. The figures are based on land temperature, as sea temperatures haven’t been measured so long or so well and  BEST announced that climate change was real.

It threw out the “hockey stick” curve which showed a very steep rise in recent years but still presented graphs showing a steady increase. It found that over the last 250 years, average land temperature has gone up by 1.5C. The latest set of more-detailed figures continues to support this, BEST says.

There are short term blips and anomalies in that, however, and the last 15 years of so have been one such period – where there has been apparently no warming – the so-called “pause”.

Muller is very clear that this is a pause – not an end – to global warming, saying as much in a recent op-ed in the New York Times.  The jury is out on what might have caused the pause – or similar short tem reverses in the last couple of centuries – but there’s no reason in the data to expect it to continue.

We can hope the pause lasts for a while longer, but those who claim this is a long term reversal are simply guessing.

The sceptic (and denialist) communities are still attacking the data of  course, and focusing on the statistics in their critique.

Each new approach means the data gets run through again,and it’s pretty obvious that those public-domain numbers will be crunched over and over. That will provide employment for quite a few servers round the world.

Happily, the folks running those serves will carry on doing their best to reduce waste and emissions, regardless of the results that come back. For one thing, the consensus is still that greenhouse emissions will cause global warming, but also, it costs less to run a data centre with less waste.

And even if it didn’t – efficiency is always better than inefficiency.

This article first appeared on Green Data Center News.

Do you know Green IT and energy consumption? Try our quiz!