Spam email is annoying. An amazing 62 trillion unwanted emails were sent in 2008. But spam’s also contributing to global warming according to a report by ICF international, an environmental consultancy.
The report, commissioned by online security company McAfee, calculates that 33 terrawatts of electricity were used sending this spam. Put another way, that’s enough to provide energy to 1.5 million US homes for a year or the energy consumption of 3.1 million cars during the same period.
As most of the this electricity would have been generated by coal-fired power stations, 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would have been released into the atmosphere. That works out to 0.2% of the total CO2 emissions.
Interestingly, the report says that viewing the spam accounted for half of these emissions. Opening and reading spam uses extra electricity.
The effect of spam was demonstrated when a spamming company, McColo was disconnected by its ISP. The number of spam emails sent dramatically reduced by 70% for a short period until the spammers managed to re-establish themselves. That 70% drop was equivalent to taking 2.2 million cars off the road for the same period.
So as well as protecting your computer from viruses, you can help reduce global warming by not opening spam.