How many photos have you taken with your cell phone to date? Personally, I have had to change not one but two smartphones not so long ago because they had run out of storage space and I was unwilling to store my data on cloud, in the illusion that this precaution would safeguard my privacy. But how much has this choice cost me? I have lost countless photos that were important to me and my house is filling up with hard disks.
So what’s my point? We are producing too much data. All the photos, files and various types of documents that we decide to file, occupy material space in this world: a space made of computers and interconnected cables that are powered by electricity. So we are consuming energy, quite a substantial amount. Clouds and the Internet in general are not imaginary concepts floating around in the air, as we may tend to believe; they actually exist in our reality, as physical objects. The Internet consumes energy, just like our domestic appliances, car or anything else that might spring to mind. According to Greenpeace, the Internet uses 7% of the world’s energy, and a good part of the energy consumed by repeaters, data centers and other structures that support the Internet, derive from fossil fuels. According to these studies the heftiest consumption of energy on the Internet is due, first and foremost, to streaming videos, an activity that currently accounts for approx. 60% of the electrical energy consumed. This percentage is expected to rise to 80% by 2020.
A fact that provides even more food for thought after the publication of a report by the no profit organization Shift Project, according to which digital technologies are responsible for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, and the Internet in general accounts for 7% of total energy consumption, while its use of electrical energy is increasing at a rate of 8% per year. Perhaps the last figure is the most worrying.
The Internet, therefore, contributes actively to the production of Co2 and in the course of the years to come, with the increase of videos, films and all the various contents produced online, there will be higher data-traffic, requiring higher energy expenditure, with all the consequences that this cause-and-effect mechanism generates on the climate and the environment.