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Environmental effects along the life cycle of digital technologies

Pohl, Johanna; Hinterholzer, Simon

ECDF Working Paper Series

The production, operation and disposal of digital technologies consumes energy and resources causing further environmental impacts such as GHG emissions, toxicity, abiotic depletion, and water depletion. There are a large number of studies that seek to determine these impacts. However, the results of some of these studies differ considerably due to inconsistent study design and assumptions on the future development of the electricity demand of data centres and communication networks. In this report, we analyse the results of selected studies in light of the way they were modelled, and identify environmentally relevant trends. Based on our analysis, we show which policy measures are needed to address the environmental challenges of digital technologies.