Internet and CO2 emissions

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Global warming is now a fact, and fortunately there are few remaining detractors of human influence in the rising temperatures.

There are many things that emit greenhouse gases, many are things over which we have no control as individuals, such as large industries, while we can make a difference over others.

But how much does the web affect global warming?

CO2 goes where energy goes

We know that to produce energy, we have to emit CO2 into the atmosphere. And the web needs a lot of energy.

It is difficult to estimate the power consumption of the web per transferred GB. Estimates range from 0.08 kWh per GB (for fixed broadband connections) to 37 kWh per GB (for 2G networks).

In addition, when calculating energy consumption, the data center consumption, network consumption and end-user device consumption must be added together.

Data centers need power to run and cool their servers and also need power to transfer data over the network, both wired and wireless. And to top it all off, our device needs power to download and display information.

All this energy must, of course, emit CO2.

Calculate your impact on the web

If you have a website, websitecarbon.com allows you to calculate your impact based on your site visits.

In their section “How does it work?” they explain the criteria by which the impact is calculated. Specifically (please read their section for a detailed explanation) their calculation is made taking into account an average value of 1.8kWh/GB.

I am proud to inform you that this website has a low environmental impact. Specifically, 0.13g of CO2 is emitted per visit, as well as using sustainable hosting.

On balance, calculating a thousand visits per month, in a year 15.67kg of CO2 would be produced (as much CO2 as boiling water for 2.124 cups of tea) and 33KWh of energy would be consumed (which would be enough to move an electric car for 211km).

It is a very interesting site, I recommend you to test your site if you are curious.

Search on google

The searches we do on Google every day are obviously not CO2-free.

According to a 2009 Google estimate, each search costs 0.2g of CO2.

On average, 3.5 billion searches per day are performed through the google search engine. That means 700 tons of C02 per day.

Which is 225,500 tons of CO2 a year.

Total impact of the Internet and future trends

It is virtually impossible to accurately estimate the full environmental impact of the Internet.

However, one can roughly estimate the CO2 emission in about 300 million tons of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to 1% of the total CO2 emitted by humans in the atmosphere.

The problem is that the trend is growing, and it is easy to understand why.

Websites, for example, compared to those of 10 years ago, have increased in complexity and weight, and consequently require more and more energy to be downloaded and stored in data centers. Since 2010 they have increased 4 times.

What you can do as a developer

To reduce the impact of your websites you can do several things:

  • Restrict the use of JavaScript
  • Limit the use of CSS frameworks
  • Avoid using custom fonts
  • Create static pages (there are pages that do not have to be dynamic)
  • Set a budget in Kb
  • Use sustainable web hosting
  • Take out the unnecessary

I recommend you visit the blog of Danny Van Knooten, who has deepened the theme and has also found a way to reduce its environmental impact as a developer of some of the most used WordPress Plugins.