Ensuring carbon neutral challenges 🌍
As a platform running cutting-edge machine learning challenges, we are in constant awe of the amazing technology that modern machine learning represents. It is hard not to be impressed by the speed with which the field moves forward every single day. At the same time, we are also aware that modern deep learning applications have become increasingly compute-intensive, and that in turn means they are increasingly energy-hungry. Because we are evaluating tens of thousands of deep learning models that the participants submit, we can see the increase in computational power needed to run these models very clearly.
It’s great to see that the big cloud compute providers are doing their efforts to be carbon neutral, and that almost all of them are fully committed to renewable energy. We wanted to do our share as well, and so we asked ourselves: if we did not have any guarantees about carbon-neutrality from the providers of the computing power, how much CO2 would our challenges be producing? Once we know that, we can offset the CO2 emission with CO2 certificates through a foundation like myclimate, thereby guaranteeing that our challenges are carbon neutral. When making these calculations, we will focus exclusively on the computing power needed on our end to run the model evaluations.
To begin, we assume that one processor will use 150 watts, which seems to be at the upper limit. We then assume that they are fully used during the entire duration of a challenge, which is of course also an upper limit. Finally, we assume that one kWh will produce 0.0004554 metric tons CO2, as per the estimates provided by Carbonfund. This number varies, but is based on a US average, and thus probably also rather at the higher end. Using these assumptions, we can calculate the number of tons CO2 produced by any challenge (keep in mind: most cloud compute services are already carbon neutral).
With these numbers, we then donate to myclimate to offset these emissions. The myclimate website allows us to calculate how much money we should donate in order to offset the calculated CO2 amount. As per the myclimate website: “myclimate invests exclusively in projects that deliver measurable and long-term success. Only emissions reductions that have actually been realised and can be proven over a longer contract term of 7 to 14 years are counted in energy projects. Compensation payments are normally paid out to the supported projects once reductions are realised. The contribution amount depends on the volume of the project’s greenhouse gas reduction. Forestry projects are slightly different because they have a longer timeline of 30 to 50 years.”
We plan to do this for all of our challenges in the future, and we hope that in doing so, we can contribute a small part to protect the environment.