What is the Carbon Cost of the Internet
The internet is an intangible technology that has become a necessity for almost everyone these past two decades. It has helped humanity further their studies, work and leisure. The internet was first launched in the 60’s, where it was used to communicate messages between multiple computers on a single network with the help of packet switching. Since then, a good 4.1 BIllion or 53.6% of the population have been using the internet. With that amount of digital traffic made by the millions who use the internet on a daily basis, one can imagine how much damage the world wide web has made to the environment.
Unfortunately, the internet–it’s gadgets and software–had a total of 3.7% contribution to the global greenhouse emissions in 2018, which is comparable to the amount produced by an airline company. Imagine, after another 5 years that percentage is expected to increase to 7.4%, given that there is a 30% growth in data traffic. The figures given in 2018 are likely to already be higher today. In the span of just 2 years, a variety of technology has been created that helps make the internet more accessible to people and motivates them to post online. Today, mobile phones have 5 cameras, optic fiber internet has become widely available in more countries for businesses and residences, and video games have started to introduce online platforms to bridge players from all over the world.
There are so many social media networks and video call applications used daily for work or entertainment. With that in mind, how much does it “cost” to power these digital transactions? Buskowitz looks into several digital platforms and internet equipment, and reviews the kilowatt-hours each one requires to operate:
On average, a Skype call lasts for an hour, which consumes about 0.11kWh. To break it down, the electricity required to power a Skype call is based on a 1 hour use of wifi– which consumes about 0.01 kWh–and a laptop that consumes 0.10kWh. A well-known software like Skype has around 300 million monthly users. If the whole world were to go on skype for 1 hour, it would consume 30,000,000 kWh of electricity.
- Wifi Modem
A wifi modem, when left on for 24 hours a day for a year consumes 51kWh of electricity. Which is equivalent to powering an average home for almost 2 days.
- Mobile Legends
Playing Mobile Legends for 5 hours a day consumes about 0.07kWh. At the same time, 5 hours of wifi usage requires 0.03kWh, and playing for 5 hours consumes 3 full charges of the phone, which requires 0.04 kWh of electricity to charge for 7.5 hours. Mobile Legends has 75 million active players. That’s 5,250,000 kWh of electricity consumed, when all active players are online at the same time–this is enough to power 183,566 homes.
According to Statista Facebook consumed 3.43 terawatt hours in 2018. Which is equivalent to powering 668,000 average homes.
According to the website Orbelo, Instagram users spend 53 minutes per day on the social media app. There are 2 factors to be considered in order to be connected to Instagram. Imagine this, a wifi modem consumes 0.1 kilowatt-hours for 1 hour of usage. Most users go on Instagram using their mobile phones, which needs to be charged for at least 1 hour to power 53 mins worth of surfing on Instagram, thus requiring 0.01 kilowatt-hours of electricity–this totals to 0.11 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day.
Instagram has 843 million active users. When everyone is online for 1 hour, this consumes 92,730,000 kWh of electricity, which is enough to power 3,242,307 homes.
Given the horrifying facts about the carbon emissions the internet produces, there are many ways eco-warriors can help reduce this. With the internet’s high production rate of carbon emissions, it may be time for everyone to try and go back to communicating personally rather than using the internet. Engaging in home activities like hide and seek, playing board games, or even spending time in your home garden is healthier for both people and the environment. It’s time to only use the internet when necessary. A switch to renewable energy like solar or wind, is an option as well. Powering technology with green energy sources can help offset and decrease the carbon emissions generated.
Truly, the internet has managed to develop so much compared to the first time it was used. It is an undeniable fact that it has helped and will continue to help people with their day to day lives. But people in their own small way should also start and play their part in this fight to eliminate and reduce carbon footprints by learning to enjoy more activities offline.
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