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The impact of computing infrastructure on carbon emissions: an empirical study based on china national supercomputing center

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Journal Article

Yang, Haodong, and Gaofeng Wang. 2023. “The Impact of Computing Infrastructure on Carbon Emissions: An Empirical Study Based on China National Supercomputing Center.” Environmental Research Communications 5 (9): 095015.

Digitalization is viewed as a potential solution to environmental sustainability issues. However, existing researches suggest that the environmental impact of digital technology is uncertain. This study focuses on the National Supercomputing Center (NSC) in China, a large-scale computing infrastructure, and expands the correlation between digital infrastructure and green development from a computing perspective. Based on the synthetic control method, we select non-supercomputing cities as the control group and assign appropriate weighting. Through the fitting of a synthetic control group (refer to as the synthetic city) with similar characteristics, the analysis is conducted to compare carbon emissions (CO2 emission) between NSC city and the synthetic city. The empirical results show that the NSC may worsen regional CO2 emissions, and this result still holds true after a series of robustness tests. Mechanism examinations show that the NSC does not exhibit significant composition effect (energy structure improvement) and technology effect (green technology innovation), while scale effect (increase in energy demand and consumption) dominate the NSC's carbon emissions. Based on these findings, we consider that in addition to improving the energy efficiency of supercomputing centers, the adoption of cleaner renewable energy and the promotion of knowledge spillovers are crucial for achieving a green transformation for computing infrastructure.

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