Maybe you’ve switched to a hybrid and ditched your gas-guzzling Suburban. Maybe you’ve planted your own garden and started to ride your bike to work. Maybe you’ve searched online for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Climate change is, and has been, a major news issue, and everything from your car to your icemaker to a field of cows has been blamed. But maybe you’re contributing to global warming right now if you arrived here via Google, Yahoo, or Bing. The Vancouver Sun reported that each search engine submission emits a whopping 1 to 10 grams of carbon dioxide, courtesy of your electricity usage.
What does that actually mean? To put it into context, each liter of gas or diesel that is burned emits about 3 kilograms of CO2, or 3000 grams. But according to the Sun, if you add up the hundreds of millions of search queries submitted every day, “you’re making a serious dent in some Greenland glaciers.”
The Sun doesn’t mince words. Whenever you do a Google search, you have “just helped kill the planet.” Hopefully, the Vancouver Sun did not conduct any background research via Google for this article.
Most people would assume that the internet offered a greener way to conduct business. We can dramatically cut down on paper, reduce fuel consumption by having teleconferences or using Skype, and more people can telecommute. But this has led to increased use, which has turned the internet into one of the “fastest-growing sources of carbon emissions” and consumes 2 to 3 percent of the electricity in the world. And, one more for you: if the internet were a country, it would be the world’s 5th biggest power consumer.
Mohamed Cheriet, green IT expert and professor at Ecole de Technologie Superieure in Montreal says, “The internet pollutes, but people don’t understand why it pollutes. It’s very, very power hungry, and we have to reduce its carbon footprint.” While the internet seems to run on ethereal cloud-power, it actually consumes the same coal and fossil fuels that are the major contributors to climate change.
Green IT experts suggest that governments impose carbon taxes, emissions caps, and other initiatives to drive data centers and servers to green up. The GreenStar network, based in Montreal, is an “alternative” internet powered by wind, solar, hydroelectric, and other cleaner renewable energies (which, it should be pointed out, need fossil fuels in the manufacturing and transportation processes).
In turn, climate change may also affect internet access. According to the UK’s Guardian, climate change may reduce range and reliability of signals. Warmer temperatures and more intense storms can cause problems with the infrastructure, and changes in the plants could even influence how radio waves travel.
Who wants to calculate the carbon footprint of this post?