Last month, on the way to visit a renewable energy-powered data center in Sweden, I found myself trapped in a turgid conversation with someone in this industry.
There is not enough space on this page to describe the feeling of mounting dread that overcame me as I slowly realized that this man was a climate change denier. No, he was not quibbling about whether we should invest more in wind and solar, or whether nuclear is the best approach - he was denying the need to do anything at all.
It’s a viewpoint that still exists among some in this industry. Sometimes it rears its head in the comments section of our website. Other times it is muttered by an audience member of a conference during an energy efficiency panel. Occasionally it is said during a very long train ride through Sweden.
This is meant to be an industry of engineers, whose actions are based on scientific certitude. This is meant to be an industry of entrepreneurs, whose accurate forecasts of the future form the basis of robust business plans. Hell, this is meant to be an industry of data professionals.
How are there still people refusing to accept the data? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s multiple reports, created by hundreds of scientists, based on thousands of research articles, using multiple high-resolution supercomputer simulations, across decades of study, paints a stark picture: Climate change is real, and we are to blame.
This is not a point to be argued. When building a data center, we don’t argue about whether it needs sturdy floors because ‘gravity is up for debate,’ we don’t argue about connecting it to the grid because ‘there’s no proof electricity exists,’ and we don’t argue about cooling it because ‘we don’t know what will happen to this data center’s climate.’
Now, this is not to say that we should end all discussion on the matter.
There are tough questions that need answering: Which renewables should we invest in? Who should be responsible for deploying energy storage solutions? Are power purchase agreements enough? Should Google and Microsoft fund think-tanks and lobbyist groups that deny climate change?
Okay, that last one isn’t that tough.
We need to start arguing how to actually combat this problem, not whether there is one. It is too late for us to pretend that anthropogenic climate change is a myth dreamed up by scientists for reasons unclear.
Once we accept the data, then the real change can begin.