Monday, April 20, 2009

Change your email address to save the planet

Today McAfee has released The Carbon Footprint of Email Spam Report. The study looks at the global energy expended to create, store, view, and filter spam across 11 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, Spain, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The report correlates the electricity spent on spam with its carbon footprint, because fossil fuels are by far the largest source of electricity in the world today. Since emissions cannot be isolated to one country, the study averages its findings to arrive at the global impact.

The average greenhouse gas (GHG) emission associated with a single spam message is 0.3 grams of CO2. That’s like driving three feet (one meter); but when multiplied by the yearly volume of spam, that amount is equivalent to driving around the earth 1.6 million times.

Much of the energy consumption associated with spam (nearly 80 percent) comes from users deleting spam and searching for legitimate email (false-positives). Spam filtering accounts for just 16 percent of spam-related energy use. Spam filtering saves 135 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year. That is equivalent to taking 13 million cars off the road.

Countries with greater Internet connectivity and more users, such as the United States and India, tend to have proportionately higher emissions per email user. The United States, for example, had emissions that were 38 times that of Spain. While Canada, China, Brazil, India, the United States and the United Kingdom showed similar energy use for spam by country, Australia, Germany, France, Mexico, and Spain came in about 10 percent lower. Spain had the lowest figure, with both the smallest amount of email that was received as spam and the smallest amount of energy use for spam per email user.


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