Our Digital Carbon Footprint: A Cause for Concern

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The number of Internet users reaches record highs every year, but did you know that for every tweet, comment, email and google search, a small amount of CO2 is emitted? This is our digital carbon footprint. For one person, the numbers aren’t too impressive, but when you factor in every person on planet earth who’s using the internet, those small numbers suddenly look ginormous, and worrying.

What is Digital Carbon Footprint?

When you think of the destructive causes that contribute to the breakdown of the ozone layer, sitting behind a desk on your computer or flicking through your phone probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, thanks to the colossal number of data centres that are now needed to feed planet earth’s internet obsession, the online world is now beginning to damage the real world.

Here are some internet and social media stats per second and the resulting CO2 emitted.

Google Searches

In the modern world, Google is our gateway to any answer we’re looking for. As a result, there are over 60,000 searches made on Google every second. Combine that with the fact that the average search produces around 0.2g of CO2 and the quantity of emissions is quite remarkable.

Sending Emails

According to ‘internet live stats’, there are more than 2.5 million emails sent every second with a “everyday” email emitting 4g of CO2. That is quite astonishing. Especially when they also say that around 67% off all emails are spam. Anti-virus specialists, McAfee, say that this number is even higher, reporting that a remarkable 78% of all incoming emails are spam and that approximately 62 trillion spam messages are sent every year.

Facebook

Facebook’s growth is the perfect example of how things have escalated over the last 10 years or so when it comes to internet usage. According to their sustainability report, in 2004 one million people were using Facebook, fast forward to 2016 and you need to replace the word million with billion and then some.

Facebook say that their annual per-user carbon emissions is 299g of CO2, which is less than making 1 latte or boiling 1 pot of tea. This is quite an achievement, but when there are so many people using the site, it still adds up to a lot of emissions.

Twitter

Raffi Krikorian, a developer at Twitter once stated that each tweet consumes around 90 joules, equalling 0.02g of CO2 emissions. Hardly anything right? Correct, however there are approximately 8,000 tweets written and published every single second.

YouTube

An article in the Guardian revealed that 1g of CO2 was emitted for every 10 minutes of YouTube watched or 0.0017g per second. That’s right, so the next time you’re up late at night watching funny cat videos, remember that those adorable, cute and cuddly fur balls mean you are contributing to the breakdown of the ozone layer.

Google’s Strive For Carbon Neutrality

10 years ago, Google vowed to be carbon neutral by 2017, a goal which they’ve met. In 2016 Google’s gross greenhouse gas emissions were 2.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), but thanks to $2.5 billion of investment into solar and wind projects, carbon offset programs and renewable energy, their net operational carbon emissions are now zero.

This infographic will provide more information about our digital carbon footprint:


Consumption and Resulting Carbon Footprint of the Internet by Credit Angel.

Salman Zafar is an ecopreneur, consultant, advisor, speaker and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection, conservation and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. Salman is the Founder of EcoMENA, a popular voluntary organization based in Qatar. He is also the Founder and CEO of BioEnergy Consult, a reputed consulting firm active in biomass, waste-to-energy and waste management segments.
Salman is a professional environmental writer with more than 350 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass environmental awareness in different parts of the world.
Salman Zafar can be reached at salman@ecomena.org or salman@bioenergyconsult.com

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