Smartphones Are Destroying Our Planet Faster Than Anyone Could Imagine

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By Mayukh Saha

Nowadays, we simply love our smartphones, don’t we? A life without smartphones seems like a nightmare, especially to the youth of our times.

There is no doubt that this love is pretty wholehearted. Yet, being as distracted as we are, it’s also true that we get bored with our phones quite easily. As a result, we feel a constant urge to upgrade our smartphones and thereby upgrade ourselves.

However, more often than not, we have been completely oblivious to the price that we are paying for such upgradations. In fact, we are directly promoting environmental degradation every time we buy a smartphone or any other internet-enabled device.

According to a recent study undertaken at MacMaster University, the carbon footprint share of the Information and Communication Industry (ICT) has tripled since 2007. In 2007, the ICT accounted for 1% of the total global carbon emission. Growing at the present rate, it’ll easily be over 14% by 2040.

The study wasn’t limited to smartphones, but also included laptops, tablets, and other such things. The findings were published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

So, you might wonder how this is even possible. Read on and you’ll find out.

More than anything else, smartphones are contributing to this impending doom in many different ways.

No matter what the companies say, we cannot disagree that, on an average, a smartphone lives for about 2 years. So, in a way, they are quite disposable anyway. Now, there’s a problem with this.

We are dependent upon smartphones and cannot live without them. So, we are bound to buy a new smartphone as soon as the old one stops working or, sometimes, even before that. This way, the production of these devices is steadily on the rise.

Now, making a smartphone involves intense mining and this accounts for about 85-95% of the total carbon emitted by the device in its lifetime. To put it otherwise, the energy consumed on acquiring a new smartphone is almost equal to that of using the old one for a decade or so.

At a global level, however, there has indeed been a decline in the frequency of smartphone purchases. It’s been seen that these days, a large section of the people are more inclined towards retaining their old phones.

In order to compensate for this loss, companies are now focusing on pushing bigger and more expensive phones. That, again, is the root of another problem.

Bigger phones are significantly worse off, in terms of their carbon footprints. According to Apple, the carbon production of iPhone 7 Plus is around 10% more than that of the iPhone 6s. Moreover, the drive by these companies to recycle their old phones hasn’t been quite successful either.

Apart from the devices themselves, a huge share of the accountability lies with the data servers. By 2020, they are expected to account for 45% of the total ICT emissions.

With the boom in smartphone usage and internet accessibility, the working of the servers has also increased manifold. Plus, more smartphones mean more servers.

The scenario might get even worse if cryptocurrencies came into rampant use. That’s not all. Another rising trend is the internet of things or devices like smart fridges and the likes.

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In all, the rise in the number of internet accessing devices leads to a direct rise in the activities of the servers. Plus, there is a steady rise in wireless transmissions. Consequently, the global carbon footprint is rising as well.

On their part, companies like Apple and others have promised to completely shift to renewable energy resources. Yet, unfortunately, that’ll not be of much help indeed.

Nobody can single-handedly control this menace. Each one of us has to strive for it. For a start, we can let go of our urge to constantly upgrade our Internet-enabled devices.

IMAGE CREDIT: stokkete

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