If Spam Equals Tons of CO2 What's the Carbon Footprint of Cyber Porn?

Tracking carbon footprints of digital activities

A McAfee study estimates 62 trillion spam e-mails equal 33 billion kilowatt hours of electricity or about as much carbon as 3.1 million cars consuming 2 billion gallons of gasoline. In January, a study by Harvard University claimed two Google searches produced the same amount of CO2 as bringing water to a boil on your stovetop.

From these headlines it appears computer users should be shamed into joining drivers of gas-guzzling Hummer SUVs when it comes to feeling green guilt. It makes me wonder how the Internet's creator, former Vice President Al Gore, feels about these digital carbon statistics. Could a sequel to an Inconvenient Truth be in the works?

Here's a list of digital activities I think digital-carbon-footprint scientists should look into next.

Facebook: ComScore says 200 million people logged on to Facebook in December 2008 to check out photos, enter status updates, play Mafia Wars and answer endless mundane quizzes. Facebook may connect friends, but how much carbon is that zombie army of yours really spewing into the atmosphere?

Twitter: Kutcher and CNN Battle for Millionth Twitter Fan - Sims 3 Prize Awaits is trying to beat CNN to one million followers today, and millions around the world are tweeting to whoever is listening. But at what cost? I'm sure that double yoke you found in your egg this morning was quite gratifying, but did Tweeting this tidbit of information just push us closer to ecological disaster?

AOL Discs: AOL subscription discs aren't around anymore, but what was the impact of millions of discs dropping into North American mailboxes every day? Some people have turned old AOL discs into art, but how many discs are sitting in landfills right now? Maybe you can start a massive salvaging campaign and turn those junked discs into solar panels. Get over to the local dump and start digging kids.

Porn: First there is oodles of tasteless bandwidth hogging stuff. Then there is the never ending pop-ups, malware, and Web page re-directs (or so I'm told).

Online Pranks: Hackers are rumored to be manipulating Time.com's poll to determine the world's most influential people. Take a close look at the top 10 and you'll see it spells out "marble cake." One hacker has already voted 10,000,000 times and another plans on running an entire server dedicated to manipulating the Time poll. Can we blame these hucksters for the meltdown of polar ice caps?

IM: How many chat windows do you have open during the day? Two? Five? How much is that costing the environment? What are you really talking about all day anyway? Question: How much carbon does it suck up to produce every LOL on the Internet a day? Now here is a ban I can get behind.

Blogs: Social media may be advancing the way we communicate via blogs. But is the environmental cost of millions of blogs on topics as exciting as floor wax worth the price?

Did I miss anything in my list? Don't you feel guilty now for spewing up all that digital carbon? Just remember, you might be able to Pwn an iPhone, but there's no hacking Mother Earth once she is gone.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags spamcarbon footprintenvironment

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?