What do you mean by internet pollution? Most people imagine chimneys or car exhausts under pollution that emit toxic gases into the air. You’ll be amazed at this, but when you send an email or use social networks, it’s also a source of air pollution. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. The reason is simple, using the internet consumes a lot of electricity. A new Yale-led study calculated what carbon footprint we create in normal Internet activities.

How much carbon dioxide do you produce?

The Internet is used by most people and it is millions of magawatt hours of electricity that is needed to transmit data and to power data centers. According to the BBC, the average internet user produces 414 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year, simply by using the internet. According to Google in 2009, one Google search emits 0.2g of carbon dioxide and it takes another 1.76g of CO2 on average to load a website. If the website contains complex content and videos, loading the page can produce up to 10 grams of CO2. Below is how much CO2 you produce in other activities:

  • Sending an email produces 0.3-4g of CO2, if the email has an attachment, as well as 50g
  • Posting a photo on the instagram will produce 0.15g O2, rolling the content will produce 1.5g every minute
  • Using Facebook, you will produce an average of 12g of CO2
  • Uploading a video to Netflix or YouTube for 1 hour will produce 36g of CO2

Do you want to calculate exactly how much CO2 you produce? For example, you can use the Ecotree tool to do this.

CO2 production is high due to excessive internet use

The Internet is important, but some people spend a lot of time here and engage in activities that significantly increase CO2 production, such as streaming movies and videos in HD quality. The pandemic had a major impact on CO2 production.

“The pandemic-related switch to digital has important environmental benefits, such as the reduction of travel-related carbon emissions, but the transition to a more digitally-centered world is not as clean as one might think,” said Kaveh Madani, the Henry Hart Rice Senior Fellow at the Council on Middle East Studies at Yale’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, who led the study. “We want to provide people with the information they need to make good choices, so they don’t develop habits that harm the environment and are difficult to break.”

Cloud storage as a major source of pollution

Distance production and distance learning during a pandemic have also significantly increased CO2 production. Cloud storage service providers take care of the largest CO2 production. The authors of the study urge large providers of these services to improve the efficiency of their technologies and reduce energy consumption. These include, in particular, YouTube, Zoom, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon, TikTok and Netflix

“If 70 million streaming subscribers lowered the quality of their video, it could reduce monthly greenhouse gas emissions by up to 3.5 million tons – the equivalent of eliminating 6% of monthly coal consumption in the United States”, according to the study.

A responsible approach for each user is important, and when people use the Internet reasonably and do not increase their demands, global carbon dioxide production is significantly reduced. All you have to do is not send as many photos and videos online, send unnecessary emails, upload unnecessary files online or use a video call during an online conversation.


Credit: Pixabay