INDUSTRIALIZATION and technological advancement are undoubtedly among humanity’s most significant achievements. They have propelled our global civilization forward, fostering economic growth, enhancing living standards and revolutionizing various sectors of society. However, this progress has not come without a price and the cost we are paying is none other than climate change. The rapid growth of the IT sector, driven by advancements in AI, machine learning and digital technologies, has led to an increased demand for computing power, data storage and network infrastructure. This demand, in turn, has resulted in a substantial consumption of energy and resources, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Data centres that power the digital infrastructure and cloud services, consume vast amounts of energy for cooling, processing and maintaining servers. The energy-intensive nature of these operations, coupled with the increasing global reliance on cloud computing and data storage, has led to a significant carbon footprint. In fact, data centres are estimated to consume around 1% to 3% of the global electricity supply and are responsible for a considerable share of global CO2 emissions. The world is currently home to several million data centres, each of which houses tens of thousands of power-hungry servers. These data centres consume vast amounts of environmental resources, exceeding the energy consumption of entire countries. This alarming environmental impact has become a growing concern for governments and the general public, prompting the need for action from data centre operators. In recent times, a significant trend has emerged with the rise of massive “hyperscale” data centres. These behemoth facilities, some as large as multiple football fields, have experienced an exponential increase in energy usage, with consumption levels reaching a staggering 100 terawatt-hours per year. These centres operate thousands of servers continuously, every day of the year, further contributing to the escalating energy demands. Moreover, the emergence of new “edge” data centres adds to the already-high power consumption rates, exacerbating the environmental challenges posed by data centres globally. Furthermore, the production and disposal of electronic devices, such as computers, smartphones and servers, contribute to electronic waste and environmental degradation. Improper disposal practices can lead to the release of hazardous substances, further polluting the environment and posing health risks. All smartphones available in the market, regardless of their brand, are equipped with either a lithium-ion battery or a lithium-polymer battery. Similarly, virtually every electric vehicle produced today, across various manufacturers, incorporates a lithium battery. The widespread adoption of lithium batteries is attributed to their outstanding advantages over other battery types, such as lead-acid batteries. Lithium batteries possess a remarkably longer lifespan, lasting almost ten times as long as lead-acid batteries. Additionally, they boast a significantly lighter weight, approximately 50%-60% lighter and offer higher efficiency. These benefits have made them the preferred choice for various applications, extending beyond consumer electronics and electric vehicles. In fact, renewable energy power grids are also increasingly adopting lithium batteries due to their remarkable efficiency and performance. As a result of this growing demand, the global lithium market has witnessed considerable expansion. In 2021, the market size was valued at 7.1 Billion USD and projections indicate that it will reach a substantial value of 15.45 Billion USD by the year 2028. This rapid growth is a testament to the widespread recognition of lithium batteries as a pivotal technology in the modern world. The environmental cost of lithium mining is a significant concern that cannot be ignored. Like many other resource extraction processes, mining for lithium can lead to adverse impacts on the environment, including soil, water and air pollution. One of the major environmental issues associated with lithium mining is the excessive water consumption during the extraction process. Extracting lithium from its ore requires a substantial amount of water and it is estimated that approximately 1.2 million liters of water are needed to produce just one ton of lithium. To put this into perspective, that’s the same amount of water that would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The heavy water-intensive nature of lithium mining can strain local water resources, leading to water scarcity and potential negative effects on surrounding ecosystems. Additionally, the release of pollutants and chemicals during the extraction process can contaminate water sources, further exacerbating environmental degradation. Addressing the environmental impacts of lithium mining is crucial to ensure sustainable development and responsible resource management. As the demand for lithium continues to rise due to its applications in various industries, it is essential for mining companies and governments to implement environment-friendly practices and technologies to minimize the ecological footprint of lithium extraction. Moreover, investing in recycling and efficient water usage methods can also help mitigate the environmental cost associated with lithium mining. The IT sector bears a causal relationship with climate change, as it both contributes to and is impacted by this pressing global issue. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events can disrupt network infrastructure, damage data centres and compromise data security. For instance, floods, hurricanes or wildfires can lead to power outage, infrastructure damage and data loss, impacting the continuity of services and compromising sensitive information. Mitigating these impacts requires a combination of proactive measures, such as adopting sustainable practices, disaster preparedness and recovery plans as well as increased focus on data security and resilience. By addressing these challenges, the IT sector can become more adaptive and resilient in the face of climate change-related risks. —The writer is a research officer at the Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) AJK. Email:

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir