Save the World, one line at a time

The world is dying; you can help save it. Data Centres consume 2% of all the power in the world and produce about 3% of the greenhouse gases. This is set to treble in the next 10 years. When building apps, we focus on minimising costs, time to market, bugs, bundle size, application speed, SEO, but we spend almost no effort trying to minimise the damage our applications are making to the environment. In this talk we’ll discuss how to write, deploy and run a green sustainable application.

(soft music) (applauding) – Hi, thank you very much.

I love this quote.

The internet will likely be the largest single thing we build as a species.

Big stuff yeah.

The internet, that’s us, we’re building that.

And it’s not like built as a people, built as a white people, black people, brown people, gay, straight, transgender, non binary, species, all of us together We’re building this.

Yeah.

Unfortunately we haven’t quite got the clicker working (laughing) yet but we’ll get there.

Let’s try it this time.

No, cancel the clicker.

Are we winning? Yeah, it’s getting bigger.

Data centre growth has been doubling every four years. Right and is set to treble in the next 10.

Getting that, biggest thing ever built as a species. Oh yeah.

Oh no, maybe we’re not.

Maybe we’re not so good after all.

Data Centres consume 2% of the world’s energy and produce 3% of the greenhouse gases.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Right, but it’s actually the same as the entire aviation industry, all of it, all flights all over the world.

But I said that this is gonna treble in the next 10 years so let’s just extrapolate that, no data scientists hopefully in the group.

(laughing) Data centres will consume 6% of the world’s energy and produced 9% of the greenhouse gases.

You’re definitely not on the good team, are you now? We’ve actually looked at a whole, kind of a whole sectors itself not just data centres, but the networking and the devices.

It looks like it was, there’s lots of guesswork here right now, but looks like it’s as much as 9% of the global energy and it’s actually growing between six to 9% a year.

So why is this a problem? Okay.

Why is it a problem? Does anybody farted in the lift? (laughing) Anyone? Or have been a victim of a lift fart? Why is farting in a lift bad? Why is it bad? – [Audience Member] You can’t escape it.

– Can’t escape it, right? It’s a closed system.

(laughing) You fart that smell in your fart but you’re also smelling your fart, okay? I mean this is the thing, right? The earth is huge, it’s a huge place but it’s still a closed system.

Okay, everything we do has an impact, if you’re polluting, you’re breathing in that pollution as well. And just come and go there just in case people are not aware of the greenhouse effect. Okay, this is what happens, the energy comes from the sun. Some of it gets held by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So we actually need some of it, we need some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If we didn’t have any, it’d be zero.

I don’t know whether is in centigrade, minus 30, I don’t know, fearfully about minus 30.

So we need some or we’re creating a lot more, right? So Bevan aside, CO2e is what’s called carbon dioxide equivalent.

So this is basically lots of different gases, greenhouse gases and they do all kind of do this, do this activity.

Carbon dioxide is most common one, there’s also like methane for instance and methane can have up to like 36 times the effect of carbon dioxide but how do we like talk about that? But what we do is we create one common unit, which is carbon dioxide equivalent.

So one tonne of methane released into the atmosphere we would say that’s equivalent to 36 tonnes of carbon dioxide, right? Here’s the thing, 97% of scientists agree that climate change is happening and that it’s man made. 97% that’s insane.

When have you ever seen 97% of people agree on anything? (laughing) That’s like imagine if there are 100 people in a lift and 97 will be like, yeah, someone definitely farted. (laughing) These three people in the lift, these three going, no. No one farted, there was like that already. 97%, so I kind of looked into, I was kind of interested like who are these 3% of people? Like who are they? As a really good website called Sceptical Science where it kind of analyses so that original studies actually comes from a set of peer review, 2000 peer reviewed papers. So these is due to science on this.

Okay, what they did was they bucketed it into expertise in climate science of the author, unlikelihood that they believed that climate change was man made. And what they discovered was that the less of an expert you were, the less likely you were to believe that was man made.

The more of an expert you were, more likely you were to believe this man made. So, piece of advice, sometimes people who are not experts on a subject will give you the wrong advice. So take that one, leaders.

What people doing about it? Lots of things have been tried.

Something happened very recently in 2014 which called the Paris Climate Agreement, where 192 states agreed to policies that would reduce the amount of pollution that’s released into the atmosphere so that we would keep the temperature increase from pre industrial levels less than two degrees C. We’re trying to get the temperature increase in the planet to be less than two degrees, ideally one and a half.

And I was like, two? That’s nothing, like I’m always late for everything about five minutes to like a snooze, two is nothing. Could you tell a two degree difference? Could you tell like from your skin? What difference in two degrees, I don’t think I could. So why two, why that number? Lots of stuff here, this is a website called Carbon Brief and what they’re trying to do is to try to, this is all backed by lots of different studies, try to analyse what the difference is just between a 1.5 and a 2.5. So you can see here, so 1.5, freshwater in the Mediterranean is gonna go down by 9%, two down by 17.

Wheat production down by nine, on two down by 16. They’re like a half a degree difference, kind of like a double the effect.

And for me, what made me realise what the big issue is that one of the assumptions I had was everything is linear.

Yes, everything is linear, I always assumed everything is linear, as you increase pollution, temperatures gonna go up linear, as we increase temperature the effect on environment is gonna be linear and that’s not the way things work.

Everything is nonlinear, like environment’s really complicated.

So for instance, if take water for instance, below zero it’s frozen, then it’s a liquid and then after 100 it’s a gas, it’s nonlinear. You add all these things together, you get some very complex effects.

And that’s why there is wild difference in 1.5 and two degrees, what the effects are and that’s why in the Paris Agreement, they spoke about two degrees because two degrees is what we think is survivable. Pretty scary word there, isn’t it? Survivable.

Just to explain a little bit more.

This is from just the NASA site.

At the end of the last ice age, when the Northeast United States was covered by more than 3000 feet of ice, the average temperatures were only five to nine degrees cooler than today. That’s it, that’s all it took.

All right and here’s the big issue, we’re nowhere near, nowhere close to meeting the 1.5, nowhere even slightly close to meeting two, okay? That agreement was non binding, country can do pretty much whatever they want. We’re not even at peak pollution yet, we have to wait for our rate of pollution to increase and then decrease, we’re not even at peak pollution.

We’re still increasing our air pollution by four to 5% every single year.

And this is the World Bank, not my favourite organisation in the world but it’s the World Bank.

So their study on what four degree, we’re much more on track for a four degree plus world. A four degree world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage and dislocation. There is no certainty that adaptation to a four degree C world is possible.

Survivability.

Carbon Brief have like, it’s a great website you can go to it, they try to really break down. This is all three studies have been done, what will actually happen 1.5 to three degrees centigrade. So, Arctic sea ice, probability of an ice free Arctic summer 1.5, 3%, at two degrees, 16%, three is 63% ice free Arctic summer.

Average crop yields, 1.5 is down, maize and wheat down six and five, at two degrees down nine and four. This is actually taking into account how crops find it easier to grow in high CO2 environments such takes all into account.

This one I find the scariest.

Proportion of species losing 50% of their climatic range. If we get to Hong Kong we just put on clothes, take off clothes, animals and plants can’t do that. Invertebrates look at 1.5 degrees, it’s all single digits. That’s all right, two degrees, survivable.

Four and a half, 68% of invertebrates will lose 50% of their climatic range.

Vertebrates, plants, some pretty scary numbers. That’s why we call it a climate emergency now. That’s the term that we use, climate emergency. The alarm bells are ringing, it’s all hands on deck, special measures.

UK was the first country to declare a climate emergency, I don’t know how we did it in the middle of Brexit but we managed to declare a climate emergency. The Guardian, just kind of one of the newspapers in the UK, a very well respectable one has added a style guide to the wording for article writers basically says, terms that more accurately describe the environmental crisis facing the world.

This is quoted from the website, instead of climate change the preferred terms are climate emergency, crisis or breakdown. We want to ensure that we’re being scientifically precise, whilst also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue.

The phrase climate change for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity. Survivability.

Okay, I’ll just turn it out for you.

Guardian is a fairly left wing newspaper.

It’s on the left to the side of things.

I’ve also thrown out few punch of kind of quite liberal websites, those are the kind of things that, there’s obviously other views there. This are the other kind of more conservative views more right wing views. What’s more right wing? What’s more conservative than the military? Military contractor, Raytheon.

So they are US defence contractor that make everything from communication system of Tomahawk Missiles. Okay, this is, they’re very candid, they’re military contractor, their business is war and killing so very candid about this stuff. So, expanded business opportunities are likely to arise as consumers behaviour and needs change in response to climate change.

Yeah, they’re preparing to make money from this. The company also expects to see demand for its military products and services as security concerns may arise as results of droughts, floods and storm events occur as a result of climate change. They’re expecting wars, fights, battles, that’s what they’re expecting.

They’re actually expecting to make money from this. That scared you now, okay? I got your attention.

All right, so those of you in the audience right now who are feeling like you’re paying attention, this is serious, you wanna do something about it. You’re not alone, okay, that’s the most important message for everybody right now, you’re not alone.

Very happy about this, Green coalition recently won an unprecedented number of seats in the EU elections, second largest elections in the world, after India. Okay, we now got enough people so that we can block vote and get some good policies in. I love this.

I don’t normally think of, probably a bias of mine but I don’t normally think of Americans, the most majority of Americans as thinking this way but yeah, according to Yale’s study, 70% of Americans think the environment is more important than economic growth.

Not necessarily this man made, but I don’t care if it’s man made, I need it to be fixed.

And here’s the thing, as technologists, you all in this room, have the ability to have an outsized impact and help them resolve this.

You all have the ability and as leaders you have an even greater ability to help with this. That’s my son.

I know I bought this top and I know I put it on him but I just can’t help but think they know he loves his daddy.

But his name is Micah.

Welcome to Bits, I birthed him ourselves.

These hands are the hands, first human hands to touch him. I always cycle, I carry this ridiculous bottle of water with me everywhere, every single conference you can find me oftentimes walking around an airport desperately trying to fill it with water rather than buy a bottle, right? I get groceries from the market.

I eat mostly a plant based diet but more for health than anything else.

I even use cloth nappies, any parents in the house? Cloth nappies, not disposable nappies where they just do this stuff, you roll up and you throw away. Cloth nappies, you’ve got to deal with shit. (laughing) You’ve really got to deal with that eight times a day for seven months.

I had an agreement, I would do all the nappy changes, when I could.

Eight times a day for seven months.

You don’t throw the cloth nappies away, you gotta wash it, you gotta deal with it.

I’m so used to shit now it’s unbelievable.

(laughing) I could probably put it on toast and not polythene. (laughing) But here’s the thing, like, this is the stuff I’m willing to do, every single day for the environment, deal with shit but I had a revelation like a couple of months ago, I sat down and I realised, not once in my career, not a single occasion, not a single meeting, not a single ticket, not a single scrum, nothing, where we’re deciding all these different architectural features of an application, not once, I cannot think of a single occasion where anybody asked, what’s the greener option? Not once.

Does anybody here ever asked that question? You know architectural? Two, three, three, round applause by the me. But oftentimes that we’re always talking about, like what’s the fastest way to deliver? What’s the cheapest way to run this feature runs? What will take the least development time? Yeah, we’re often trying to minimise and maximise these utilities when we’re making decision, we making thousands of these decisions with every application that we made.

I personally, never ever even asked this question but any single feature.

Just to kind of like bring another term into this, sustainable.

Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own needs. Future generations, my son.

The real question is what is the sustainable option? What is the option where we don’t steal from the futures of our children? And this has been kind of a journey, been asking myself for the last couple of months, have been really fascinating. I first started looking online, I thought of course, there’s so many resources out there that is gonna tell me everything I need to do in order to build a sustainable green application.

There’s very, very little, very little out there. Just start bringing into the thought process, any kind of decisions that we’re making.

And the first thing I discovered was it actually makes life easier, really does, when making all these decisions you’re trying to minimise and maximise something, your speed, time, costs, whatever, whatever as soon as you factor in what’s the greener option. They’re like, oh yeah, that’s the one.

Easy solution and then no matter what more information comes in the future, you can stand behind that decision ’cause you’re saving the world. There you go.

So then I started asking so when you start really looking at bunch of these questions, let’s just have a quiz for the audience see what this all looks like. So, working from the office or working from home? Oh yeah, which is greener, which is more sustainable? – [Audience Member] Office.

– Office? No travel.

(audience member talking) Yeah. Well, you’d also need to heat the houses or you’d be living in Melbourne winter, I suppose. (audience member talking) Okay, good question.

All right, let’s have that discussion.

Let’s have that discussion when we’re having, as one of the inputs into the decision.

But it’s interesting.

Here’s an easy one.

White theme or dark theme? White theme let’s put hand up.

One, oh interesting.

Dark theme let’s put the hand up.

You bastards.

(laughing) Is probably not what you think is, do you thinks white theme uses lesser electricity than dark themes. Who think it’s dark themes? All right, it depends.

So you’re all old, yours is leaders conference, you’re all pretty old, right? (laughing) Okay, with the old CRT monitors, where the little light that will scan across and highlight something that’ll turn it white, in those monitors light themes used more electricity than dark themes. And the new LCD monitors, what is an LCD monitor? It’s a giant fluorescent bulb in the back and it’s liquid crystal pixels on the front and you’ve got to fire electricity into those liquid crystals to polarise them to change the wavelength that’s in the black, so it actually has black, it actually takes more electricity than to have white on LCD. On LED screens is even different so on your phones and on your tablets, they use LLEDs, the exact opposite ’cause each little pixel is its own LED.

Okay, the actual carbon impact of screens is actually pretty low, it’s really low.

But it’s this really good lesson to investigate, don’t just land on your assumptions, we really investigate some of the stuff and that’s what I found interesting. The answer is a lot more complicated than you might find. Here is an interesting one, what language? Yeah, what programming language? Questioning your identity in a long time.

(laughing) There you go, well, this is a good.

What I’m about to show you actually is a study that was done on all different languages and the first column shows the energy impact of the using that language, okay programming language. So you’re all gonna quickly scan down and find your language of choice, I’m gonna show it. There you go.

Did you find yours? Mine is annoyingly here, JavaScript, damn it. It’s actually one of my team who’s really into Rust. So obviously Rust is doing pretty good, the number two spot on both time and energy not on megabytage.

Let’s actually go on, Pascal it’s all there. Pascal I know, surprising.

Yes, it’s interesting right? Maybe when you picking a language if that is actually coming up in the decision process, think about it, think about which language perhaps will give you, use less electricity to achieve the same result. Rust is getting a lot of popularity these days. Next up like I wish they’d run this web assembly, I wish they’d had that report web assembly ’cause I’m then suddenly I’m a lot more interested in web assembly. If you don’t know it’s coming, you compile target. Maybe now, my JavaScript can actually run more efficiently. What web frame MOG is? I actually asked how much from an Angular well they asked that, I don’t know if you how much of you all know web space or not but anyway, I’ll switch house, is kind of created this framework called Slot JS. Let’s get different one because actually, unlike the other ones which are interpreted in a way so they’ll compiled an application into raw JavaScript so it’s actually more performant in that way and I asked him and he says, yeah she is looking into as well. Now look at the battery impact of Sven.

On the sidebar this is Twitter ’cause the sidebar an interesting thing to know about Twitter. Did you know that each tweet you send generates about naught point two grammes of carbon? Same as a human fart.

(laughing) Yeah, back to the farting.

Who doesn’t like a good fart joke? Not me, I like fart jokes.

All right, here we go desktop or laptop.

Which is more energy efficient? Who thinks desktop? Who thinks laptop? Laptops, okay it’s laptops is actually driven a large part of it is driven by a battery.

Okay batteries, if you powered by a battery then people who create things that power batteries one of the things to last longer and they’re making much more efficient. So in fact, actually a lot of our kind of peripheral devices that we’ve been using are actually getting better and better and better, they get more and more energy efficient, okay. But that’s kind of like the front end stuff, that’s like all the front part of our applications. We got whole other part of it called a networking, the networks that kind of transmit all our Bits and Bytes across the world.

There’s lots of different studies, lots of different reports, I picked a number here, which fell within a bunch of them so I feel it’s quite okay. 10 grammes of carbon per megabyte, those down transmitted. 10 grammes of carbon, that’s actually for fixed networks and WiFi, for 3G, 4G is between four and seven times more, a lot. But we’ve got another unit of measurement now, don’t we? So grammes of carbon, so it may be more relatable. 50 farts.

(laughing) 50 farts per megabyte downloaded.

The average web page is 2.4 megabytes or 120 farts. Yeah, it’s suddenly quite relatable, isn’t it? I personally find a lot more relatable to think about this thing in 120 farts.

But okay, a lot of this stuff is kind of mute because you might think the world, the performance of sending data across a pipe is also something people are aware of.

We know now to make our apps more performant we need to send a special website, which needs to send, make them smaller and send less data across the pipe. So that hopefully, that natural pressure will force us to send less and less data because the piping in fartless. Kinda, right, kinda.

Web developers and hey, might know this is prefetch, you can stick this tag at each of the HTML page and after it’s finished, downloaded everything, it will then download another page and to then if you click on another, it will load up prefetch for you if you click on another.

It’s good from user experience perspective of user will feel more performance, but if they never click on that page, then that’s 120 farts for nothing. So this is kind of the one and there are some frameworks out there that will just automatically download everything within the view port behind the scenes, just constantly. Say yeah, okay, often being more performant and being more environmentally friendly, being more sustainable is actually hand in hand so it works out quite well. But this is an example when that’s not the case, just like think about it.

Think about it when is the case and when it’s not the case. REST versus WebSockets verses GraphQL.

I was fairly lukewarm on GraphQL to be honest fairly lukewarm, I know one of the only people who is fairly lukewarm on GraphQL but is fairly lukewarm on it but now I look at it from these lens and I’m like, oh, wonderful, it allows you to send less data to a GraphQL works ’cause you can actually say only send me these fields. So you can actually reduce the amount of stuff that gets sent across the pipe, so now I’m like, oh GraphQL. That’s all the networking stuff but then data needs to go so it needs to go into kind of backend hosting somewhere. And I used to talk about this next technology like all the time because it was like really, really cheap. I love talking about server-less technology, it’s a great thing, I always talk about how cheap it is. When I was interviewing somebody one day in a dot co conference and I asked him, what’s your favourite technology? He goes, yes server-less.

Why, ’cause it’s cheap? He goes, no, it’s better for the environment and you can actually see in the video, I’m like, gobsmacked, for 20 seconds I just like I don’t know what to say ’cause it just totally blew my mind there.

Yeah, of course, it’s better.

For those of you don’t know, server-less is kind of really interesting technology that’s out there. All the cloud providers have got something about it. Back in the day if you weren’t server enough servers to handle your load, you’d basically just buy enough of them, you can just have them hanging around. They costs more but actually, even if you’ve got a server that isn’t running, it still consumes between 80 to 90% of electricity if it’s not running.

The total electricity of the data centre.

So what you do is maybe you try and kind of like, use some sort of infrastructure as a service service and you create something that you can add some service at a top as you’re scaling up and then removed some servers if you’re scaling down but then you probably get wrong ’cause this is a really hard problem to solve. Really hard problem to solve.

And so you wanna usually call like a server-less platform and essentially what it does is you basically just give you just enough compute to handle your workload. It works because the car providers we basically run an own, a lot of servers and we can share out any free time amongst different customers whereas you wouldn’t be ’cause you’re your own customer. Server-less may be a good technology for the environment. Let me head into something else called I don’t know how to pronounce it, I gonna show you, the Jevons Paradox. Jevons Paradox is somebody from the 1880s in the UK and he was talking about the cheaper price of coal production and the amount of reserve they had left in the UK, he was worried that the UK is gonna run out coal and then it was just gonna lose its influence across the whole world ’cause you’ve run out of coal. And he was arguing that just because the cost is getting cheaper and cheaper to extract coal from the earth, doesn’t mean the coal is gonna last longer ’cause all that’s happening is people are then using more and more and more coal to different things. And the idea is the more efficient you make something, the more it gets used so the total use is greater than before, economics call it the rebound effect. For instance, lighting, if the oil lamps incredibly expensive than candles but cheaper. Incandescent lights even cheaper, fluorescent lights even cheaper but what do we do now? We lights up entire cities.

As things get more efficient, you just use more of it that’s Jevons Paradox.

So your goal isn’t just to make things more efficient, your goal is to reduce consumption, that’s what it’s all about and that’s where it kind of gets a bit weird ’cause we live in what’s called like a consumerism society. It’s all about consuming, we’re not business save, we want our users to consume more then we make more money. As we make our apps more efficient, we wanna do more with them to make them ourselves seem more appealing. Whereas the argument here is you actually have to reduce your consumption, you have to figure out how to solve the same problem for your end users but use less electricity overall.

The real goal if you can really achieve this is to use clean energy.

So you need to produce that compute somehow that you’re using, use some energy to create it. Ideally, have renewables powering your data centre or offset the carbon impact with carbon credits. This is the hardest to achieve, but has the biggest impact. You’re all leaders, you probably will have to be able to have more of an influence in these decisions in your companies.

If you’re on your own on premise data centres, that’s what you probably want to do is to kind of try and get some renewable credits or carbon credits to offset your impact. If you’re using one of the cloud providers, how good am I? That my company’s on here.

We would make this talk very confusing, very, very confusing but yes, Azure and Google Cloud, all of our data centres are 100% carbon neutral. In fact, when I first started on this whole thing I was about to, I was writing these tough email to the Head of Developer Relations, I was like, you’ve got to like offset all of our carbon for travel and I found out that all of our travel is offset with carbon carbon credits, every single employee of Microsoft quite incredible. But anyway, if you’re gonna use, if you wanna move to cloud either of these, you pretty good because they’re all offset with carbon credits, I think we’re using like 60% renewable energy, Google’s using more renewable energy and they’re offsetting less carbon credits. If using Amazon the issue is a little bit more confusing, only these four regions are sustainable regions, okay. So if you are using Amazon move, if you can, move your workloads to these regions, if you can’t email your service provider, move to Google and Azure and send an angry email saying why? All right, what can you do today? What can you do today if you wanna kind of have some sort of impact? Okay, couple things.

To sign this petition for sustainable service by Paul Johnston, so if you go to this link and actually go to the bottom of the page, he’s got a really good white paper that goes through all this, he actually owns an energy company and used to work for Amazon. So he has a lot of information, a lot of knowledge about how this stuff works and he’s examined a lot of stuff so he wrote a white paper about how data centres use electricity and renewables. I literally just created this the other day. So I wanna start creating a reference really to show people how to create sustainable applications, how to you actually build that.

Let me answer all those questions in a lot more detail so if you wanna help me out with that just go sustainableapps.org this is it, a form with three fields I think and just sign up and we can help me start answering some of these questions. Most important thing if you really wanna begin angry wanna do something about it join this group, Climate Action Tech is basically a global slack community right now of technology professionals who are wanting to do something about this, joined forces and anything really but most importantly, just a place to talk so if you join there, in the general room, you probably find a quite a few messages for me going, I’m giving a talk, help. So to summarise, okay.

It was a climate emergency, it is happening. Oh, I spelt you’re wrong, didn’t I? (laughing) Oh damn it.

You’re not alone, okay, there are other people, there’s movements so don’t feel alone, can join forces, talk.

You’d have an outsized impact and I’d say all the way just if you’re gonna do one thing, just try and do this next time you have a discussion about a feature, just bring it in and just have it as an input into that decision, just say, what’s the most sustainable, what’s the sustainable option here? Just have that as an input.

Try and reduce the consumption basically try and achieve what you want to achieve for your end user but use less electricity, that’s the goal, is not just efficiency, use less electricity. And if you can, use clean energy either by going to one of those data centres or offsetting or buying renewables or something like that. That’s it, thank you very much for your time. (applauding) (soft music)

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