Saturday, 20 June 2009

Definitive numbers on the environmental cost of spam

The numbers are quite remarkable: 62 trillion unsolicited emails in 2008, burning some 33 terawatt hours of electricity, equivalent to the annual output of 3.1 million cars, or 17 million tonnes of CO2, representing 0.2% of global CO2 emissions. On wasted email. Outrageous, right?

But then I think... if that's the waste caused by 62 trillion spam emails, what about all those facebook hours, and myspace hours and inane IM messaging hours, and the 'solicited' crap chain emails and jokes? How much CO2 do they burn? Aren't they just as wasteful as spam email? I guess the best excuse is that if you weren't on facebook, you'd be burning carbon much faster with your car, but that seems a bit fatuous.

In the age of smart machines and a network that can analyse everything about itself, perhaps ISPs should track and charge carbon offsets for internet users. They'd be only too eager to revert to usage-based fees, and it might make users think twice about what they use the internet for, even if we're just talking pennies.
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