image: Thomas/Creative Commons
You may have seen headlines this morning about how global spam email levels have suddenly fallen, declining from approximately 200 billion spam messages in August to just 50 billion in December. Which got me thinking: Since spam is about 80% of email traffic, how much energy and greenhouse gas emissions have been saved?Based on stats Jaymi reported on from 2009 (which is where the 80% stat comes from, above) the electricity required then to create, send and delete the roughly 350 billion spam messages in 2008 was equal to the carbon emissions of 3.1 million cars. On the plus side, spam-filtering took the equivalent of 13 million cars off the road.
Some quick and rough math with lots of rounding involved, shows that anti-spam efforts between 2008 and August 2010 must have paid off as total messages dropped noticeably, equivalent a few months ago to the emissions of 1.77 million cars.
By December, when spam levels were one quarter of those in August, unsolicited ads for impotence, hair loss and weight loss medication, not to mention soulful pleas to help get money out of Nigeria or collect on lost lottery winnings generated the comparatively low level of emissions of just 434,000 average cars -- if that monthly level of spam volume was held constant across the entire year.
You can read all about the whys and hows of declining spam levels at BBC News, but take these quick calculations as a further indication of the amount of energy required to keep global computing, with both the genuine good and bad it brings, up and running.
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More on Internet Energy Use:
Spam Sucks Up As Much Power As 2.4 Million US Households
The Footprint of Gmail: How Much Energy Would Deleting Email Save?
The Internet Is Becoming More Energy Efficient, But Total Energy Use Is Climbing