In most cases, when we hear about climate change as a result of carbon emission, we think that the primary source of carbon emission is only heavy industries such as petroleum, transportation and mining. Little do we consider or point out a finger on digital technologies such as your smartphone or PC.
As The Guardian wrote, “The energy usage on our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on climate change than the whole aviation industry.” Recently, researchers found that data centers and smartphones are damaging the environment and will have the highest carbon footprint in the industry by 2040. Does this frighten you? You have to if you care about environmental sustainability and our existence.
However, many experts consider cyber-world of information and computer technologies as a potential savior and an alternative to physical activities with a lower carbon footprint. But recent research refutes it and shows the impact of smartphones and computer technologies on climate change.
The impact of the smartphone.
Smartphones have a disproportionate contribution to carbon emission relative to the overall ICT (Information and Computer Technologies) footprint. ICT devices like laptops, smartphones, monitors, PCs, tablets and infrastructures like data centers and communication networks will contribute the global footprint by 3.5% in 2020 which is expected to reach 14% by 2040.
That is more than half of the relative footprint contribution of the entire transportation sector worldwide. While by 2020, the smartphone will contribute 11% to the carbon footprint.
In undeniable values, emissions caused by smartphones will bounce from 17 to 125 megatons of CO2 per year (Mt-CO2e/yr) in the same period or a 730% growth. Smartphones can be the most damaging of all devices in the industry, with all the bulk of their emissions emanating from the production chain.
For every phone call, text or video you download or upload, there is a data center behind that, and they consume electricity generated by fossil fuel. Besides, smartphone companies encourage you to have a new phone every two years, which, after that, increases the disposal of electronic wastes. Electronic wastes take long to decompose.
Now, what can we do? Government and respective institutions should demand data centers to run on renewable energy.
Moreover, keep in use your smartphone for as long as you can and if you may renew to a new phone, make sure you recycle the old phone. Bear in mind that only 1% of smartphones are recycled.