You may have come across this news item a couple of months ago but it is worth taking another look. Although, the study was conducted by a major spam-ware corporation, it is clear that junk e-mails have a huge carbon footprint.
Anything powered by electricity emits greenhouse gases. Recently research was conducted in the US to find out the amount of energy needed to transmit, process and filter spam globally. The results were startling. According to the ‘Carbon Footprint of Spam’ report the average greenhouse gas emission of a single spam message is 0.3 grams of CO2. Is this a lot? Well, if you multiply this by the number of spam sent annually it translates into a huge figure.
It is estimated that there are 62 trillion junk e-mails sent each year. In terms of energy this equals to the energy needed to drive a car around the planet 1.6 million times. If looking at the electricity needed to power these spam it equals to 33 billion kWh. This amount of electricity could power 2.4 million homes for a year! Spam-related emissions for all e-mail users around the world in 2008 totalled 17 million tons of CO2 or about the same as the emissions produced by 3.1 million passenger cars. That’s 0.2% of the total global emissions.
The report found that about 85 to 91% of all e-mails globally is spam. Nearly 80% of the spam-related GHG emissions came from the energy used by the PC users viewing, deleting and searching for legitimate e-mails amongst the junk e-mails. But spam filtering itself accounts for about 16% of spam-related energy use. To view and trash a piece of spam takes about 3 seconds.
If every inbox were protected by spam filters, organisations and individuals could reduce today’s spam energy by 75% or by 25 billion kWh per year. This would save the same amount of greenhouse emissions as produced by 2.3 million cars. In late 2008 a major source of online spam was taken off line and global spam volumes dropped by 70%. However, there are always new ones to take its place.