Millions of tons of CO2 : Websites are the invisible enemy of climate change


What is the environmental impact of visiting a website?
Did you know that every action we take on the web has an environmental consequence? 70% of all CO2 emissions generated by websites come from user devices, while 25% come from data transmission and 5% come from data centers. This means that every action performed on the web such as posting a photo, reading an article, watching a video on YouTube or even searching on Google emits CO2.


Considering that billions of people use the web every day, it’s easy to say we have a problem.


That’s why we decided to measure the CO2 impact of websites on all their user devices. To kick off our experiment, we turned to some of the most visited websites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter.
The results of our research are quite shocking: Google.com consumes globally about 1,000,000 kWh on all its user devices, while Facebook.com is about 1,700,000 kWh and Twitter.com is about 900,000 kWh! From another perspective, this means that in Poland Facebook users emit about 35 tons of CO2 every hour. This is the equivalent of having 380 Boeing 747-400s flying simultaneously every hour


Why does the carbon footprint of websites matter?
The purpose of this article is not to point fingers at websites, but to highlight the impact they have on the environment.
“If the Internet were a country, its electricity consumption would be the third largest in the world, behind China and the United States,” says Aapo Markkanen, senior director analyst at Gartner. And that’s why regulators have begun demanding more accurate data on the environmental impact of large tech companies.
This is a vital move, as reducing the consumption of websites like Google, Facebook and Twitter by just 1% is equivalent to saving 300,000,000 kWh per year.
Moreover, if we also consider the trend of increasing digitization and Internet accessibility around the world, the problem will become even bigger in the future because more users will charge their devices with non-renewable energy and emit millions and millions of tons of CO2 more.


Why are the millions of tons of CO2 not yet included in the ESG report?
Our concern is that there are a lot of unoptimized websites out there that cause high CO2 emissions per visit than the ones we have monitored. However, their impact is not monitored or reported.


The main reason why these types of emissions have not yet been included in the ESG report is because it is very difficult to accurately measure the CO2 emissions generated by software. More specifically because a holistic measurement would have to consider different types of hardware devices and the carbon intensity of the area in which they are powered.
However, regulators in both Europe and North America won’t listen to any more excuses, as they know the importance of carbon footprint reporting and reduction, so they are planning to adopt stricter rules for the sake of transparency.

Dedalo AI has created a tool to accurately measure the CO2 impact of websites across all user devices. The measurement proves to be accurate as it takes into account the difficult-to-measure variables listed above. The mission is to make both users and companies aware of how software can have major, yet silent, consequences on climate change if not acted upon immediately.

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