How programmers can help save the planet | Greenbiz

In a recent article, Tannis Thorlakson, director of sustainability at Driscolls, highlighted the need for sustainability professionals to be fluent in programming. The reverse is also true: Given the urgent need for climate action in an increasingly digital world, it’s crucial that programmers are sustainability experts.

From code to carbon

While the “cloud” often seems ephemeral and elsewhere, its impacts on our planet are unquestionably tangible. Vast networks of undersea cables connect our devices to massive data centers, which house servers that run the code that creates our digital world. These server farms require considerable amounts of electricity (read: carbon), water, and materials to operate.

The information and communication technology sector is responsible for up to 3.9% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the global shipping and aviation industries. It is predicted that by 2030, 90% of the world’s population will be connected to the internet compared to 62% today. Without intervention, these emissions will increase significantly, especially with the advent of computational technologies such as AI, blockchain and VR.

Yet despite all this digital growth and innovation, one thing remains true: We need to cut global emissions in half to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

To date, efforts to clean up the tech sector have focused largely on the downstream end of the digital supply chain: improving server efficiency, streamlining data centers, and adding clean energy to power grids. While this work is critical, we shouldn’t overlook opportunities for further optimization of upstream code before it gets to the servers.

The code can be designed in many ways to achieve the same result. Optimizing software to minimize energy expenditure for the same production has significant potential to reduce carbon emissions, but is not yet widespread practice. Those who work throughout the software development lifecycle have a role to play in making code more efficient, from UX designers and architects to developers, engineers and more.

Technological innovation also holds great promise in the journey towards a sustainable future. From quantifying forest carbon through satellite imagery to democratizing climate science via chatbots, we’re just starting to see the power programmers bring to solving sustainability challenges.

The gap of the green code

Salesforce research that polled more than 1,000 technology professionals in three countries reveals that 75% are eager to help the environment in their work. Technologists already recognize the impact their work has on the environment and want to do even more to help the planet. However, there is a lack of awareness and knowledge on how to develop software sustainably. Nearly half (45%) of respondents say they lack sustainability skills and 62% do not participate in sustainability skills training.

To help fill this sustainability skills gap, here’s how anyone working on software can get started:

1. Check out the latest ideas on sustainability in software

There are many free resources that programmers can use to start their journey to sustainable software development. Introduce yourself to the principles of green software engineering, from energy and carbon efficiency to minimizing networking and integrating measurement and optimization. The sustainability pillar of the AWS Well-Architected Framework highlights common architectural practices that are not sustainable (anti-patterns), then outlines specific steps to improve sustainability in the cloud. Also, check out this collection of best practices for sustainable design, architecture, development, and operations of Salesforce applications. Small changes, such as reducing the size of UX media or deleting unnecessary data, translate into a large impact at scale.

Ready to test your knowledge? Take this free exam and earn a Green Software Practitioner certificate.

2. Apply these practices to your work

As with many sustainability shifts, you can start small and incorporate these practices into your work without a giant overhaul. And one person can drive an entire department or even a company. Start by calculating the impact of your application using the software’s carbon intensity specification because you can’t handle what you don’t measure. At Accenture, an effort to create a carbon benchmark for internal application has opened the door for future projects focused on reducing these emissions.

Optimizing software to minimize energy expenditure for the same production has significant potential to reduce carbon emissions, but is not yet widespread practice.

Then start integrating sustainable software models from this open source database curated by the Green Software Foundation. And ensure your application uses the greenest energy source available with the Carbon Aware SDK. Once you’ve pulled out all the stops as an individual, it’s time to leverage your company’s employee environmental resource pool to find like-minded technologists and work to bring a culture of sustainability to your tech department as a whole. At Salesforce, we have over 14,000 Earthforce champions in more than 90 teams volunteering their time to support climate action, and this team has been instrumental in connecting with technologists interested in sustainability. You could also host a green hackathon focused on tackling sustainability challenges.

3. Participate in existing cross-sectoral projects

Success on our shared sustainability journey depends on our ability to break down silos and collaborate towards our common goals. So it’s important to look beyond your own company. There are ongoing projects and working groups hosted by the Green Software Foundation such as creating new carbon standards and community resources. You can contribute to the open source Electricity Maps project and help map emissions from the world’s electricity grids in real time. Join GreenHack to help solve today’s biggest sustainability challenges. And explore the use of digital technologies (blockchain, open source software, AI, IOT, Big Data, machine learning, etc.) to create a transparent global climate accounting system through this Hyperledger group.

As underlined by the latest IPCC report, we are at a global crossroads. The actions we take today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will affect generations to come. We need all hands on deck to create and scale climate solutions. Programmers hold the key to innovation and have the power to make a significant impact on the climate crisis.

#programmers #save #planet #Greenbiz

Leave a Comment