Jan 29, 2020

Big Tech goes green, but still can't escape climate pressure

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Big Tech is getting greener — but that’s not keeping it out of climate advocates’ crosshairs.

The state of play: Even as major tech companies announce new green ambitions — and evince existing ones — they're facing heightened pressure to walk the walk when it comes to their products and clients.

The big picture: New data shows that Google was the global leader in corporate renewable energy procurement last year, signing contracts for 2.7 gigawatts of capacity. The next three biggest buyers were Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, per a BloombergNEF report that underscores Big Tech's years-long push into renewables.

  • This month Microsoft also rolled out a suite of new policies — including a pledge to be carbon-negative by 2030 that encompasses its suppliers too.
  • Amazon toughened its climate plans and targets last September.

The other side: Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor, who heads the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, this week urged Google to curb false climate information on YouTube. She called for steps including...

  • Removing climate "denial" and "disinformation" from YouTube's recommendation algorithm.
  • No longer allowing users to monetize videos that "promote harmful misinformation and falsehoods" about climate.

Also this week, hundreds of Amazon employees, defying their communications rules, put their names on statements criticizing Amazon policies on climate (among other topics).

  • Amazon, Google and Microsoft all face attacks from both their own employees and outside critics — including Sen. Bernie Sanders — for offering sophisticated computing services tailored to help oil companies assess and extract resources.

The bottom line: Big Tech companies have some of the corporate world's most aggressive climate targets and programs. But this is hardly inoculating them against criticism.

Go deeper: Google and Amazon employees claim to face retribution for decrying corporate moves

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YouTube faces criticism over climate misinformation

Photo: Florian Gaertner/Getty Images

A report this month by the activist group Avaaz alleges YouTube is "driving millions of people to watch climate misinformation" daily.

What they found: One finding is that when users search for "global warming," 16% of the top 100 "related videos" in the "up next" feature had climate disinformation. Another is that major brands are often unaware that their ads run on these videos.

Go deeperArrowJan 29, 2020

Hundreds at Amazon call for company to toughen climate policies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Hundreds of Amazon workers are pushing the company to adopt tougher policies to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change.

Why it matters: The employees are putting their names to their comments, posted on Medium, and the move defies Amazon's corporate policy.

Go deeperArrowJan 27, 2020

Climate activists target Big Tech over fossil fuel work

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Big Tech is making splash with its aggressive carbon reduction goals, but some of its employees and climate activists are criticizing Google, Microsoft and Amazon for nonetheless partnering with fossil fuel companies to use artificial intelligence to find hidden hydrocarbons and bring them to market.

Why it matters: Big oil companies are some of the richest, most resourceful enterprises in the world. They collect multiple terabytes of data daily but don't have the capacity to analyze and efficiently utilize that volume of facts without AI.