The Hungarian National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) published a new study revealing that three-quarters of Hungary’s population is always connected to the internet, even during the night.
Around 90 per cent of smartphone owners use internet to check on social media and search engines, followed by an 80 per cent who reads emails, a 70 per cent that uses it to chat, while 60 per cent of people watch videos and weather reports.
It is somehow shocking to think that we use our smartphones even while we are sleeping.
So I checked my iPhone’s Screen Time application. I spend an average of two hours and 30 minutes a day on my phone. In a week, it means more than 12 hours, seven of which are on social networking sites. In other words, I spend online 38 days every year.
Somebody could say a “waste of precious time”. Or a waste of my health, as it is well known that it is not good for our eyes and our brains to stay in front of a screen so much.
Besides, it is also very polluting.
According to a research from the McMaster University in Canada, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from computers and phones could grow from roughly 1–1.6 per cent in 2007 to over 14 per cent by 2040, accounting for more than half of the current relative contribution of the whole transportation sector.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) giants have already pledged to use more and more renewables energy and reduce their emissions.
A few days ago, Google announced that it has already eliminated its entire carbon legacy since the company was founded and it aims to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy in all its data centres and campuses worldwide by 2030.
That means that today every email we send through Gmail, every question we ask Google Search and every YouTube video we watch is already carbon neutral. Furthermore, by 2025, Google expects to anchor over 2 billion euros of investments in new carbon-free energy generation projects and green infrastructure in Europe, helping to develop new technologies to make round-the-clock carbon-free energy cheaper and more widely available.
Also, Facebook in 2019 achieved a 59 per cent reduction in operational GHG emissions, compared to its 2017 levels. It has committed to net-zero emissions for its entire “value chain” by 2030, including its suppliers and users.
Earlier this year, also Microsoft announced that it will be carbon negative by 2050 and that it will also remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.
But these commitments alone might not be enough if we do not change our behaviours. If we keep spending more than 12 hours per week online, we are not actually helping Facebook or Google reaching their climate targets.
For example, we could turn off our computers during the night. According to a research conducted at the Tufts University in the United States, if all the students turned off their computers at night for six hours, it would prevent 572 tons of CO2 from heating the atmosphere each year. And it is only a university.
Smartphones are even more threading than computers. As reported by McMaster University, by the end of 2020, the footprint of smartphones alone would surpass the individual contribution of desktops, laptops and displays.
The coronavirus pandemic has definitely contributed to change people’s behaviours. We spent more time at home, ordering food and other goods online. But another thing that the pandemic seems to have taught us, is the importance of social relations. Next time we are getting bored waiting for the bus, let’s read a book. Next time we go out with our friends, let’s not just look at our phones the entire time. Let’s increase our social life and decrease our carbon footprint.
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