Greenpeace has warned that as cloud services expand in conjunction with the increasing number of connected devices, carbon emissions will make pollution levels soar worldwide.
The warnings, made following the environmental organisation’s report "Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building the Green Internet", revealed a prediction by non-profit organisation Ceres showing clean energy investment needed to address climate threat will rise from $310 billion in 2014 to $500 billion and $1 trillion in 2020 and 2030 respectively.
Greenpeace said: "The rapid transition to streaming video models, as well as tablets and other thin client devices that supplant on-device storage with the cloud, means more and more demand for data centre capacity, which will require more energy to power.
"The transition to online distribution models, such as video streaming, appears to deliver a reduction in the carbon footprint over traditional models of delivery. However, in some cases, this shift may simply be enabling much higher levels of consumption, ultimately increasing the total amount of electricity consumed and the associated pollution from electricity generation."
Greenpeace added that unless leading internet companies find a way to leapfrog traditional, polluting sources of electricity, the convenience of streaming could cause the increase of the carbon footprint.
In the report, tech companies have also been ranked by Greenpeace according to their energy use on ‘clean energy’, ‘natural gas’, ‘coal’ and ‘nuclear’.
Apple scored 100% and it is the only company using natural resources to power its entire services, followed by Yahoo (73%) and Facebook (49%). Ebay (10%), Oracle (17%) and HP (22%) scored the lowest.
As for collocation providers, Greenpeace put TelecityGroup and Digital Realty at the top with 18% of green clean energy being used to power their data centres followed by Equinix (15%).
DuPont Fabros Technology, a wholesale data centre collocation provider in the US, appears at the bottom of the chart with 6% of its energy coming from clean sources.
Greenpeace said: "Collocation companies continue to lag far behind consumer-facing data centre operators in seeking renewable energy to power their operations, but Equinix’s adoption of a 100% renewable energy commitment and offering of renewably hosted facilities is an important step forward."