Climate Change, and Seeing your Cloud Carbon Footprint

Paul Johnston

I’ve been tweeting a lot about Climate Change recently. Some time off doing actual “work” meant that it gave me time to spend on looking at the impacts of the Cloud on Climate Change, and I’ve blogged and tweeted about this a lot.

One of the things that’s difficult with a lot of Climate Change problems is that things happen “elsewhere”.

You switch on a light, and electricity is used, but that generation happens at a power station somewhere, and you don’t see the Climate Change impact directly.

You drive your car and sit in a traffic jam for 30 minutes waiting for whatever it is to clear and you don’t see the Climate Change impact directly.

You start up an instance on your cloud, and you don’t see the Climate Change impact directly.

But what if you could?

This is a completely hypothetical tweet that I put together to illustrate my point.

If we could see our Carbon Footprint when we start an instance, or if we could have a Carbon Footprint line item in our cloud account then would that change our approach to Cloud?

Don’t get me wrong, I am very strongly of the opinion that using a Cloud provider is almost certainly more efficient (energy wise) than building our own Data Centres.

The problem with increasing efficiency is that people while it may seem that that should decrease energy usage, it tends to increase usage.

It’s called Jevons Paradox:

Making the cloud more efficient means that we use more energy, not less

At present, no cloud provider gives a Carbon Footprint as a line item in their account. Two Cloud Providers — Google and Azure — are 100% offset or use Carbon Credits to offset their electricity/energy usage. This means that while they emit, they ensure that somewhere else in the energy system they remove those emissions. It’s imperfect, but it’s better than nothing.

AWS though, is a bit different. It has 5 regions, although only 4 public regions that are 100% sustainable: EU (Ireland), Canada (Central), US West (Oregon) and EU (Frankfurt).

That information isn’t clearly signposted within the AWS Console though. So I thought I’d have a go at changing that.

The “Cloud Sustainability Console”

My thinking is this: what if you could see which AWS regions are sustainable?

So I created a Chrome Extension for the AWS Console that simply shades the 4 public regions in green, and also provides a link to AWS Sustainability page, and the Cloud Sustainability Whitepaper that Anne Currie and I wrote, and a link to the petition for Sustainable Serversby 2024 https://www.change.org/p/sustainable-servers-by-2024.

The extension can be found here:

It’s a very quick extension that I put together (and I created a very quick logo too because you can’t create an extension without one).

It’s simple and straight forward

And it may help you to lower a Cloud Carbon Footprint for yourself and a business.

A note on support: I’ve created this very quickly and I haven’t created it to work across all languages. I’ll work on that if people ask for it via twitter.

Paul Johnston

Written by

ServerlessDays CoFounder (Jeff), ex AWS Serverless Snr DA, experienced CTO/Interim, Startups, Entrepreneur, Techie, Geek and Christian

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade