Should the Wikimedia Foundation do something about climate change? Here’s what I said on foundation-l:
Given the lack of political will to make deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, and the pitiful excuses politicians make for inaction; given the present nature of the debate, where special interests fund campaigns aimed at stalling any progress by appealing to the ignorance of the public; given the nature of the Foundation, an organisation which raises its funds and conducts most of its activities in the richest and most polluting country in the world: I think there is an argument for voluntary reduction of emissions by the Foundation.
I don’t mean by buying tree-planting or efficiency offsets, of which I am deeply skeptical. I think the best way for Wikimedia to take action on climate change would be by buying renewable energy certificates (RECs). Buying RECs from new wind and solar electricity generators is a robust way to reduce CO2 emissions, with minimal danger of double-counting, forward-selling, outright fraud, etc., problems which plague the offset industry.
If Domas Mituzas is correct, and Wikimedia uses on the order of 100kW for its servers, then buying a matching number of RECs would be a small portion of our hosting budget. If funding is nevertheless a problem, then we could have a restricted donation drive, and thereby get a clear mandate from our reader community.
Our colocation facilities would not need to do anything, such as changing their electricity provider. We would, however, need monitoring of our total electricity usage, so that we would know how many RECs to buy.
I’m not appealing to the PR benefits here, or to the way this action would promote the climate change cause in general. I’m just saying that as an organisation composed of rational, moral people, Wikimedia has as much responsibility to act as does any other organisation or individual.
Ultimately, the US will need to reduce its per-capita emissions by around 90% by 2050 to have any hope of avoiding catastrophe (see e.g. table 9.3 in the Garnaut Review, and chapter 4.3 for more context). Nature doesn’t have exemptions or loopholes, we can’t continue emitting by moving economic activity from corporations to charities.