Computing contribution of computers to global warming

Posted on August 28, 2009  /  2 Comments

We have written about this endless loop of reasoning before. But I guess someone thinks this perpetual motion exercise does some good.

AVIATION has long been blamed for its share of anthropogenic global warming. Indeed, some travellers now ask themselves whether their flight is strictly necessary and, if they decide it is, salve their consciences by paying for the planting of trees. These, so they hope, will absorb the equivalent of their sinful emissions. But you, dear reader, are indulging right now in activity that is equally as polluting as air travel: using a computer.

According to a report published by the Climate Group, a think-tank based in London, computers, printers, mobile phones and the widgets that accompany them account for the emission of 830m tonnes of carbon dioxide around the world in 2007. That is about 2% of the estimated total of emissions from human activity. And that is the same as the aviation industry’s contribution. According to the report, about a quarter of the emissions in question are generated by the manufacture of computers and so forth. The rest come from their use.

Full story in the Economist.


  1. According to Ericsson’s CTO Håkan Eriksson, a mobile phone user annually emits 23 kg of CO2, which a motorist emits in one hour. Here is his very recent presentation:

    In Bangladesh we have a political perversion called “Hartal” or general strike. No vehicle moves on the day when Hartal is called. It hits the economy below the belt. Yet the so-called politicians are obsessed with this sadism. Should we call them the messiah of environment? Mobile and PC penetration is negligible in Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Shouldn’t the leaders of these countries be honoured for lower CO2 emissions by mobile phones and PCs?

  2. Actually, Zimbabwe has more phones than you think. For a discussion of the cellar dwellers of mobile telephony, see: North Korea is at the bottom, and Burma is right next to it. But it’s Eritrea and Cuba who come next.

    But main point is taken. This discussion is silly.