- By Suzanne MerkelsonSuzanne Merkelson is an editorial assistant at Foreign Policy.
The internet is generally seen as a "green" technology — emails can cut down on paper waste, teleconferencing can save on CO2 emitted by flying, and smart grids can help reduce overall energy consumption. But, according to the Guardian‘s series on carbon footprints, the internet releases about 300 million tons of CO2 each year — as much as all the coal, oil, and gas used for energy in Turkey and Poland.
The British newspaper acknowledges that carbon footprints are, in general, tough to calculate. However, it arrived at this rough estimate by accounting for the power used up by data centers ("buildings packed top to bottom with servers full of the web pages, databases, online applications and downloadable files that make the modern online experience possible") and personal computing devices. Data centers are one of the less visible factors in understanding the global carbon trail left by our emails, blog trolling, and facebooking, but they are quite significant. A Harvard physicist last year estimated that just two Google searches generate about 14 grams of CO2–or enough to bring a kettle to boil.
A recent UK study determined that in 2005, consumer and commercial information and communication technology (ICT) accounted for about 1.2 percent of fossil fuel emissions. The report predicts that ICT’s footprint could climb by 60 percent by 2030.
The Guardian feature highlights some other carbon footprints. Among them:
The Iraq War: 250-600 million tons of CO2 since 2003
The World Cup: 2.8 million tons of CO2 ("more than a billion cheeseburgers")
The 2009 Australian bushfires: 165 million tons of CO2
A banana: 80g CO2 each
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |