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The Internet Pollutes the Atmosphere More Than India, Says Greenpeace

| 22 Apr 2011 22:03
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Reading this news post will release .03 grams of carbon dioxide into the air. Happy Earth Day!

A new report from Greenpeace claims that the Internet and cloud data storage is a real environmental problem. If the internet were ranked as its own independent nation, it would be the fifth worst polluting country in the world, behind the US, China, Russia, and Japan. Most of that is because large data-centers and server farms are built in areas where electricity is generated from "dirty" coal plants. Information technology companies like Facebook and Yahoo! build their datacenters near these plants because such energy is generally cheaper, but this has a strong effect on the environmental impact of the Internet, says Greenpeace.

Right now, the servers that host the Internet and all the online data in the world consume about 2 percent of the world's energy. But that number grows about 12 percent per year and Greenpeace urges that we have to begin considering the source of that power.

For example, the report claims that Facebook uses dirty coal for 53.2 percent of its power needs. Google, on the other hand, was commended for its initiatives to purchase wind power in Iowa and Microsoft's similar deal in Dublin.

"While a few companies have clearly understood that the source of energy is a critical factor in how green or dirty our data is, and have demonstrated a commitment to driving investment attached to clean sources of electricity, the sector as a whole still seeks to define 'green' as being 'more efficient,'" the report read. "This failure to commit to clean energy in the same way energy efficiency is embraced is driving demand for dirty energy, and is holding the sector back from being truly green."

Also, according to an infographic produced by Wordstream, a single email generates .03 grams of carbon dioxide every time it fires off across the internet pipes. That means the 63 trillion spam emails that are sent every year result in emissions equal to 1.6 million cars driving around the world.

And if you equate sending an email to reading this post, you are a part of the problem. So get working on renewable energy, people! Someone's got to come up with a way to get electricity from water or something.

Source: Greenpeace via LA Times

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