TORONTO: Smartphones and data centres will be the most damaging information and communications technologies to the environment by 2040, a study has found.
Researchers from the McMaster University in Canada studied the carbon footprint of consumer devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, desktops as well as data centres and communication networks as early as 2005.
Not only did they discover that software is driving the consumption of information and communications technology (ICT), they also found that ICT has a greater impact on emissions than we thought and most emissions come from production and operation.
“Today it sits at about 1.5%. If trends continue, ICT will account for as much as 14% for the total global footprint by 2040, or about half of the entire transportation sector worldwide,” said Lotfi Belkhir, associate professor at McMaster, adding, “For every text message, for every phone call, every video you upload or download, there’s a data centre making this happen.”
“Telecommunications networks and data centres consume a lot of energy to serve you and most data centres continue to be powered by electricity generated by fossil fuels. It’s the energy consumption we don’t see,” he added.
“By 2020 the energy consumption of a smartphone is going to be more than that of PCs and laptops,” Belkhir added.
- The study, published in the ‘Journal of Cleaner Production’, suggest that by 2020, the most damaging devices to the environment are smartphones
- While these devices consume little energy to operate, 85% of their emissions impact comes from production
- They also have a short life which drives further production of new models and an extraordinary amount of waste