Can Algorithms Make a Difference for the Climate?

The physicist Lars Olesen has dedicated his career on projects that make a difference for the climate

Lars Olesen has a Ph.d. in physics at Aarhus University. During his career he has worked with sustainability and circular economy and has his own company Circ.eco.  

In cooperation with Nordic Computer Lars Olesen has developed an algorithm that can calculate an estimate of the CO2 emission when buying brand new IT equipment in stead of prolonging the life cycle of your existing equipment. 

- The challenge is that you cannot just calculate a single unit. Nordic Computer needed an algorithm for all equipment that is potentially present in a datacenter. So, it was simply a question of getting the task started, says Lars Olesen. 

The starting point for the project was a presumption that the weight of the IT equipment and the CO2 emission were somehow connected.  

- Generally seen there is a clear connection between the weight of the IT equipment and the CO2 emission when manufacturing, transporting and disposing the equipment. Generally, you can say: The more weight the more damage on the climate, says Lars Olesen. 

It is, however, not that simple, when you dive below the surface. There is a significant difference on the CO2 emission from the cabinet, the ventilators, the print boards and all other items in a server or a storage system. 

For that reason it was crucial to calculate the CO2 emission from a long range of various components to get a more exact number for the total CO2 emission.

CO2 REDUCE WAS BORN

Lars Olesen has spent hundreds of hours on developing the algorithm that we call CO2 REDUCE.

The work has resulted in a 35-page report. The report contains of many, complex mathematical formula - incomprehensible to most people.

There is, however, a "but".

- Algorithm is based on data from public available life cycle estimates. And as all life cycle estimates are based on a number of presumptions, the results may differ depending on, who make them - even though they relate to the same product. Thus, we have had a strong focus on making the calculations conservative in order to avoid overestimating the CO2 emission. In other words: You can view the results of the algorithm as a guidance - the actual emission is most likely to be more extensive, says Lars Olesen.

He is pleased both professionally and personally with the work of  CO2 REDUCE, which is now operational to the delight of Nordic Computer's customers. 

- What Nordic Computer does here is extremely important to the climate. Nordic Computer's business model actually means that the production of new IT equipment will decline over time, and it means an actual Co2 reduction that helps the climate. This is the right path, says Lars Olesen.

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