Climate change may not seem like an issue that should concern web developers, but the truth is that our work does have a carbon footprint, and it’s about time we started to think about that.
By Jack Lenox, published by Smashing Magazine on 15 January 2019
I’m currently reading Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin’s The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene. In the first couple of chapters, the authors lay down some history of the human interpretation of climate change. I find it mind-blowing that we understood our ability to affect this planet’s climate through our activities, and that we were discussing it, more than 200 years ago. Geologists like Thomas Jenkyn and enlightenment giant, George-Louis Leclerc (better known as the Comte de Buffon) both wrote and gave lectures on the topic.
Over the past six months, I’ve become increasingly interested in the topic of web sustainability. The carbon footprint of the Internet was not something I used to give much thought to, which is surprising considering my interest in environmental issues and the fact that my profession is web-based.
“Please think about the environment before printing this email.” It’s a request many of us are probably familiar with. It seems reasonable, but it also implies that an email, and by association the web, is a green medium. Sadly, this isn’t exactly true. What if I told you that the Internet is the largest coal-fired machine in the world?
Before going any further here, I want to make it clear that I’m well aware of the shortcomings of carbon offsetting, wonderfully satirised by the folks behind Cheat Neutral. However, carbon offsetting is undeniably better than doing nothing. And as sustainable as you might try to be, it probably isn’t enough. The World Resources Institute have calculated that we should be aiming for a maximum limit of two tons of CO₂ emissions per person, per year. And yet it is calculated that the average EU citizen incurs 9.1 tons of CO₂ emissions. The average US citizen emits about twice as much as this.
I love travelling by train. But booking trains over flights for international travel is something that I’ve always assumed is complex, difficult and expensive. I’ve taken the Eurostar a few times and I’m no stranger to hopping on trains within a foreign country, yet planning something like London to Barcelona by train, for instance, isn’t something I’ve seriously contemplated.
A great post from Mightybytes about the sustainability of the internet and data they’ve collected from their Ecograder tool. It includes this excellent infographic: