Global Communications Industry Has Similar Global Warming Effect as Aviation: 3% of Total Emissions


photo: Marina Burity/Creative Commons

There have been a number of studies comparing the climate change impact of different parts of the global communications industry, from how much energy video games consume, to data centers, and so. Now, the first comprehensive study of the IT, telecommunication, media and entertainment sectors has been concluded. The result: It all adds up to 3% of global carbon emissions. That's roughly the contribution of global aviation. The study, done by KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, breaks out the different sub-sectors' contribution to warming, based on 2007 data:

Global telecommunications and IT made up 1.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 620 megatons of CO2-equivalent. Media and entertainment was 1.7% of the global total, at 820 megatons CO2e.

As for how that breaks down into manufacture and usage, the report says that production of telecommunications technology is half that of operations. Using televisions as an example: Actually watching television, over the lifetime of the device, produces three times the emissions as manufacturing it.

Which really points to the importance of targeting energy efficiency of products themselves and the source of the electricity powering them--something TreeHugger has been saying for a while.


photo: KTH

Researcher Åsa Moberg says, "From a macro perspective, it is important to follow the trend for the product groups that have the greatest impact on the climate. Even if more energy efficient products are being developed, an increased variety of products will bring about adverse environmental effects all together."

Want more? Read the abstract, or the original article: Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Operational Electricity Use in the ICT and Entertainment & Media Sectors

UPDATE: The folks from the Centre for Sustainable Communication got in touch with me to point out that, if the same type of life-cycle analysis done here for communications were done for aviation, flying would account for 4-5% of total emissions--when you take into account all the infrastructure that goes along with flying, and not just the burning of fuel.

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More on Carbon Emissions:
Report: Cloud Computing GHG Emissions to Triple by 2020, iPad and Similar Devices Are Big Culprits
The Persistent Myth of the Internet as Energy Hog
Spam Sucks Up As Much Power As 2.4 Million US Households
Want to Save $100 A Year and Power San Diego? Just Turn Off Your Xbox

Tags: Carbon Emissions | Electronics | Energy Efficiency | Global Climate Change