The positive effects of Lockdown on Environment
We all witnessed that the lockdown all through the globe has given the environment some space and time for itself so that the environment can heal, with no boots and wheels on the ground, and no mechanical birds (Airplanes) in the sky. This event has led to a huge decline in fuel demand – with industries and the shutdown of manufacturing units, a good amount of carbon content has been mitigated.
According to Global Energy Review 2020
- The global energy demand in the first quarter of 2020 declined by 3.8%.
- The global coal demand fell almost by 8% when compared to the first quarter demand of 2019.
- The global road oil demand was terrifically hit as it fell nearly 5% in the first quarter, due to the shutting down of operations in the aviation industry that accounts for nearly 60% of global oil demand.
- The renewable energy sources posted growth in demand, driven by installer capacity and priority dispatch.
- Electricity demand decreased by 20%.
- The major positive is the increased share of renewables in the electricity supply as their output is largely unaffected by demand, the demand for all other sources of electricity including coal, gas, and nuclear power decreased.
- The global CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 8% or almost 2.6 Gigatonnes to levels of 10 years ago.
The last time this happened was in 2009 when the carbon dioxide contents declined by 0.4 Gigatonnes due to the global financial crisis.
This is good news but not for long, we must remember that these are all reversible effects once we are back on track. These figures will alter as seen in New Delhi, and we cannot ask industries to stop producing for a much longer time as the people would die of hunger first and then later from COVID – there will be an economic pandemic. I have been in support of the lockdown, I regard it as a solution to help fight environmental adversities but anything in excess is harmful – even if it is water, the quantity matters.
We all believe that the lockdown has decreased pollution levels but we have been ignorant of the fact that we are at home and our internet usage has increased multifold.
The whole world is working from home, being educated from home, running businesses from home. All of us have a common understanding that digital messages seem to save resources like paper and stamp, but the fact is that emails use energy, this huge amount of energy is used to run and operate the physical network that helps to send or store data. A huge amount of data and emails are stored in server farms that consume a massive amount of energy 24 hours a day and require countless litres of water and air conditioning systems for cooling. The more the messages we send/receive, the more energy the server farms will consume. Now think of the energy being used by all the online video conferencing platforms, platforms being used by schools and colleges for their classes and new digital businesses.
A carbon footprint specialist Mike Berners, who happens to be the brother of Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the world wide web), opines that every spam email even if its left unopened releases approximately 0.3 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere and an email containing a lot of attachment can be responsible for up to 50 grams.
- Suppose your email id has 1000 spam emails left unopened. So carbon emitted by single id = 1000 × 0.3 = 300 grams of carbon/ id.
- Now let’s assume 3 billion people have email ids
- Hence total carbon emitted = 3 × 1000,000,000 × 300 = 900,000,000,000 grams or 900000 tonnes of carbon.
- Suppose a total of 1 billion people send 20 emails with attachment, total number of emails = 20,000,000,000 emails,
- Hence total carbon emitted from attached emails = 20,000,000,000 × 50 = 1000 billion grams or 1000000 tonnes of carbon.
These numbers are not good for the environment, we will lose all that we have achieved. These numbers will show a growing trend if the lockdown is extended as new businesses will become digital and more and video calls will replace face to face interactions even more, the demand for OTT platforms will increase and hence the server farms will require more amount of energy to run and operate network infrastructures than the usual.
According to Greenpeace, global data centres used roughly 416 TWh in 2016.
The annual energy used by spam emails is 33 billion kilowatt-hours that is roughly equal to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes, the same as the greenhouse gas emissions from 3.1 million passenger cars using 2 billion US gallons of gasoline.
What can be done immediately?
- Use spam filtering as it can save 135 TWh of electricity (cutting 39035 metric tonnes of CO2 that is equivalent to 19356 tonnes of coal burnt every day).
- Delete unnecessary mails and empty the trash.
- Unsubscribe the subscriptions that you don’t open.
- Choose a green email provider that uses 100% green electricity.
According to an estimate, if everyone in France deleted 50 unnecessary old emails, this would be equivalent to turning off 2.7 billion light bulbs for 1 hour.
It’s safe to say that emails cause greenhouse gas emissions, and deleting them would be a temporary fix. With some countries going under lockdown, this fix will not sustain for long as the internet has a huge potential to expand. I urge the concerned authorities to conduct a proper EIA of the digital industry because if left ignored, it will haunt us tomorrow.
Remember people do your bit, Save the Earth! This time your bit is just a ‘button’ away!
Source and Reference:
Save the Planet, Clean your Inbox (en.reset.org)
Global Energy Review 2020 (iea.org)