Internet pollution is triggered by the effects of COVID-19

The decrease in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions and pollution in general due to confinement by COVID – has been positioned from the beginning as the only 'positive effect' of the global pandemic.

The first estimates point out that in 2020 global CO2 emissions will decrease between 5 and 6%, mainly due to the decrease in road and air traffic, and the consequent less use of fossil fuels.

However, in what many have seen a kind of environmental relief, there is also a side B. Emissions attributed to the consumption of the internet and all its related technologies have skyrocketed, in the same way that it has. our online presence.

There are no conclusive reports yet, but it seems evident that the increase in telework applications and streaming services has contributed to the cloud footprint exceeding all its records this year.

The company Website Builder Expert , specialized in web development, has been one of those that hastened to give some information. Based on estimates that the usage of that data consumption has skyrocketed between a 70 and a 80% over the last few weeks, has estimated what the environmental footprint of some of the most common activities these days could be.

For example, according to your data, streaming on platforms like Netflix contributes up to 4. 120 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per minute ; while YouTube, on the other hand, emits about 4.2 tons of carbon dioxide per minute.

How much does the web really pollute?

All these estimates, however, have always been the subject of doubts. In the so-called information technologies, there are a wide variety of impacts that could be broken down. From the data centers that support the internet network, to the energy cost of manufacturing any device that allows us to use it. All this logically marked by the origin of the primary source and if it is renewable or not.

One of the latest reports that has put numbers on the internet's footprint is that of the Shift project, a think-tank that advocates the reduction of emissions. According to their data, the carbon footprint of our devices, the internet, and the systems that support them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions. This would be between 1. 600 and 1. 700 million tons per year, similar to the amount produced by the industry of airlines, or a sum that would place the web, being a country, as the fifth most polluting in the world, between Russia and Japan.

An increasingly heavy internet

However, the most worrisome thing about this matter is if it is possible that the same predictions focus on the fact that this figure will only double from here to 2025.

Mike Berners-Lee, brother of Tim, one of the well-known parents of the web, is one of the greatest experts on environmental footprint linked to the internet. According to several studies that he has developed for the University of Lancaster, we are talking about the fact that an average internet user generates 135 kilos of greenhouse gases just for his shipments of emails. A figure comparable to a trip of 300 kilometers by car.

However, it seems that the increase is hardly avoidable. The boom in the use of high-quality images and videos on the web has been exponential in recent years. To get an idea, the average of a web page in its desktop version has gone from 500 Kb to a weight of more than 2 megabytes on average 2010 to 2020, figures that in mobile versions are more.

The problem, however, has begun to stir consciences in recent years, generating movements that advocate applying efficiency also to internet design, hiring certified hosting for its use of renewable energy, or the search for a less overloaded design. An example is the Sustainable Web Manifesto , promoted by a group of developers and technology companies for a few years, which advocates this internet design with an eye towards pollution that generate.