June 22, 2021

Digital carbon footprint accounts for 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions; and it’s set to double.

ClimateCare, an organisation dedicated to tackling climate change and improving lives, has today launched its new carbon footprint of the internet infographic to raise awareness of the growing climate impact of the digital world.

The profit with purpose B Corp is launching its infographic as a means to educate and raise awareness amongst business leaders of how energy hungry the digital world is. ClimateCare noticed a growing trend across the business community of a mistaken belief that the pandemic would likely lower their emissions due to the lack of business-related travel. ClimateCare contends that whilst overall emissions have gone down, digital emissions due to the growth in digital devices, streaming and data centre use have gone up dramatically.

Some key stats from ClimateCare’s carbon footprint of the internet infographic include:

  • Over four billion people are active internet users.
  • Internet traffic has tripled since 2015.
  • The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them accounts for 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions. These emissions are predicted to double by 2025.
  • This is approximately 1.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year and equates to more than the climate footprint of all the cars on the road in the UK and US combined for a year[i]. .Streaming video and audio are the biggest drivers of explosive data growth, making up 63% of global internet traffic.

Vaughan Lindsay, CEO of ClimateCare, explains: “In our rush to stream video calls, send emails, store data and update our social media posts, we’ve lost sight of how energy-hungry the digital industry really is. We need to understand that the internet and digital technology involves far more than just the energy required to run our devices. Rather, the storing of data (the cloud), is one of the worst offenders of all. Far from being invisible, the cloud and the technical components to run it, generate extremely high emissions.”

ClimateCare advocates that businesses of all sizes need to start taking responsibility for their entire carbon footprint in order to achieve a Net Zero position. This involves measuring and reducing everything from business travel, considering energy use at the office, and understanding and reducing our digital footprint.

Lindsay explains how a business can go about this: “At its most basic, this is a process with a hierarchy of actions. To start with a business will need to measure their emissions to understand what their entire footprint is, and this includes their employees working from home too. Once they understand what this footprint looks like they must reduce and eliminate what they can. And, whilst they do this, offset what remains, through high quality carbon reduction projects.”

ClimateCare offers 10 top tips for businesses and employees to reduce their digital footprint:

  1. Switch off auto play when using social media and avoid using video if you only need audio;
  2. Close tabs you are not using to avoid videos playing in the background;
  3. Limit how often you use reply all to emails;
  4. Unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t need to receive;
  5. Shut down your computer if you are away from it for more than two hours;
  6. Consider storing your data on a green cloud provider;
  7. Dim your monitor. Dimming from 100% to 70% can save up to 20% of the energy the monitor uses;
  8. Be mindful that, even in sleep mode, a computer continues to burn energy;
  9. Hold onto IT equipment for as long as possible and get it repaired rather than buying a new device;
  10.  Be selective about the tech providers you work with and take time to review their environmental policies and actions.

Lindsay concludes: “Ultimately the energy used in our digital consumption collectively emits the equivalent amount of carbon as the entire airline industry[ii]; a fact that until recently has remained unnoticed. Businesses need to start taking responsibility for this now. Anything less than that is not a responsible position for a business today.”

To view ClimateCare’s infographic please click here: https://www.climatecare.org/resources/news/infographic-carbon-footprint-internet/