How Smartphones are Heating up the Planet

April 4, 2018

We’ve all learned what has caused climate change, the main reason we almost always hear behind this evil is – carbon emissions – coming out of heavy industries like petroleum, mining,and transportation.

But how often have did we point our finger at computer technologies?

According to so-called experts, it is said that the information and computer technologies (ICT) is the solution to minimize the carbon footprints today; by reducing physical activities with virtual alternatives. However, that is not proven to be true, according to a recent study, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Considering a painstaking record of the contribution of ICT, devices like laptops, Pcs, monitors, mobiles, and tablets in collaboration to data communication networks; it is found that ICT carbon footprint is expected to grow to 3.5 per cent by 2020. To put it another way, it’s more than half of the entire transportation sector worldwide.

Another disturbing finding is that this abnormal growth is incremental.Which means, the hope that ICT would reduce the global carbon footprint by replacing physical activities with the virtual world, proved to be merely a dream.

The impact of smartphones

Perhaps the most interesting fact concluded from the recent study is, the emissions share of smartphones is expected to grow from 12per centby 2020, leaving behind the individual contributions of laptops and tablets.

To put in values, smartphones’ emissions will go up from 17 to 125 megatons of CO2 equivalent per year – (Mt-CO2e/year).

In other words, this is the lion’s share of carbon footprint (approx. 90 per cent) caused not only by the use ofsmartphones but also by their huge production.

These findings solely belong to device side. On the other hand, we have the infrastructure side that is expected to produce carbon footprint from 300 megatons of C02 equivalent a year (Mt-CO2e/year) to 770 MtCO2-e/year by 2020.

Undeniably, these two (smartphones and their production) combined to lead a dizzying growth in carbon footprints, making it worse for the environment.

There is no question that software companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Yahoo are the largest data centers in the world. The emerging trend of smartphones, particularly iOS and Android, along with the hundreds of thousands ofmobile apps are designed and built on these platforms, making it the widespread technology among people.

However, behind this humongous smartphones demand, we see a growth in the emission footprint. It is ironic that we are producing a large number of devices only for one purpose: to serve the software universe made of various big names in the industry that we should not just name here.

The way out?

At an aggregate level, we must demand that all giant software companies run solely on renewable energy. Whereas, at an individual level, we all should consider holding on to our smartphones for as long as we can. In case, we want to upgrade our living style, we should consider recycling old smartphones. Unfortunately, only two per cent of the smartphones can be recycled today.


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