Guest Blog by S. A. Shelley: The last decade has seen an explosion of new digital tech incessantly infiltrating all areas of our lives. There were cells phones before 2010 as well as websites and such, but with the advent of smart phones, 5G, the internet of things, everything is now wirelessly connected. New things such as crypto currency and EVs have also made significant inroads into society in the last 10 years. Many of these technologies are, of course, promoted as green and helping the world. Such is always the case when new technologies arise, and there are enough people to advocate for their favorite thing: Bud or Bud Light, Democrat or Republican, Trudeau fan or intelligent person.
Let’s consider smart phones. In 2012 there were around 1 billion smart phone users worldwide. By 2020, that had risen to almost 4 billion. Various sources indicate that a smart phone uses between 2 to 6 Watts of energy per day, which isn’t much per phone. But if we consider 4 billion smart phones at about 3 Watts of energy per day, then in one year approximately 0.5 GWh of energy are required to power all the smart phones in the world. In the United States the average daily output of one nuclear power plant is around 1 GW. Thus, in order to just power all the smart phones in the world, one needs to run 1 nuclear power plant for 12 days.
But that’s not the worst part. All those smart phones consume data which is stored on massive arrays of databanks and computers predominantly clustered in the colder regions of the world. Way back in 2013, it was calculated that the amount of total energy used by a smart phone and all the data centers supporting that smart phone and its data was about the same as an efficient household refrigerator, or about 360 kWh in a year. This works out to an unfathomable amount of power, and more recent studies indicate that 1% of total global electricity produced is consumed to support the digital addiction.
I remind OWOE readers that the bulk of electricity generated around the world (around 63%) is still generated using fossil fuels. So this little pocket pal, that allows us to Snap Chat and Facebook, Tik and Tok, drive and surf, is by itself responsible for nearly 0.6% of all CO2 emissions.
Here’s my proposal to everyone who cares about global warming yet wields a smart phone like it’s the only true friend: Put it down, turn it off and save the earth, because bringing together small changes in large numbers can result in big changes.
Vive l’Alberta Libre!