Article from For Liberty by Norman Leahy.

If we are to believe a study from a European green energy company, then the humble email is a surprisingly large contributor to the impending climate apocalypse:

How can one little email destroy the planet, I ask Mike Berners-Lee, who advised OVO on the research. “When you are typing, your computer is using electricity,” he says. “When you press send it goes through the network, and it takes electricity to run the network. And it’s going to end up being stored on the cloud somewhere, and those data centres use a lot of electricity. We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing.”

The electricity I grasp; the cloud is a bit beyond me. “It’s made up of enormous data centres all over the world,” Berners-Lee explains. “They are burning through huge amounts of electricity.” Super-efficient communication and storage is killing us. Every silver lining has a cloud.

Berners-Lee admits the numbers are “crude estimates”, but says they are a useful way of making a general point. “When we take a small action to cut carbon,” he says, “it’s a message to yourself that you care about the climate emergency.”

So it’s a bit of a stretch (quite a bit, really) to say that an email you send today will burn the rainforests to the ground tomorrow.

All of this hyperbole is of a piece. The marvels of modern technology, be they cloud computing, air travel, and much more are blamed for causing climate change.

More sensible approaches that don’t involve hectoring, shaming, or torturing the data do exist. They include expanded use of free-market environmentalism to spur peaceful, profitable solutions and, the most important — tapping the ultimate resource: human ingenuity.

Which can be shared – almost instantly — via email.

Image Credit: By Edi Wibowo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons