CBS Frets Too Much Emailing Contributes to Global Warming

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

On Wednesday's CBS This Morning, correspondent Mark Phillips devoted a full report to fretting that all the e-mailing and computer usage, as well as other ways people consume energy at home, is actually counterracting the environmental "silver lining" that liberals have tried to take comfort in during the pandemic as fewer people drive to work.

Fill-in co-host Jericka Duncan set up the report by lamenting that the U.N. estimates the drop in carbon emissions in 2020 -- due to less travel -- is not enough to impact global warming:

When people all over the world don't go to the office, there are fewer cars on the road. That's good for stopping air pocket pollution, but a recent U.N. report found an unexpected seven percent drop in emissions this year will have an insignificant effect on the overall global warming trend.

She then intoned: "Mark Phillips shows how working from home can actually impact the planet more than you may realize."

In a pre-recorded piece by Philips -- who is CBS News bureau chief in London -- he quickly warned that working from home is not helping the environment as much as environmentalists might have hoped;

For a lot of us in these COVID times, the morning commute has developed into its own routine, fighting all that traffic down the hallway and into the home office. But if there's one consolation to this new way of life, it's the feeling that, however solitary, it may be better for the planet. We are, after all, producing a whole lot less of the global warming greenhouse gases that we used to by spewing our way to work in our cars and then spending our days in power-hungry offices.

He then then poured cold water onto the concerns of liberals:

Well, hold the smugness. Working from home is not cost-free, and the more of us who do it, the more environmentally expensive it becomes. Every e-mail and text, especially the unnecessary little ones -- every "thank you" and "got it," -- every time we hit send or download or stream or zoom, they all require power. Somewhere massive banks of computers are storing and processing that data, sucking up enormous amounts of electrical energy to do it. The cloud doesn't so much have a silver lining as a carbon one.

In a soundbite, environmental author Mike Berners-Lee further warned: "But, on the other hand, if you're at home with the heating on, which it wouldn't otherwise have to be, then that's not so good, and you're probably using more computing stuff than you would be."

Phillips then recounted that it takes lots of energy to process e-mails, noting the huge quantities that are sent. He then related a British study estimating that "if everyone in Britain sent one less "thank you" e-mail a day, the carbon saving would be like taking about three and a half thousand cars off the road."

This episode of CBS This Morning was sponsored in part by Nissan. Their contact information is linked.

Transcript follows:

CBS This Morning

December 23, 2020

7:39 a.m. Eastern

JERICKA DUNCAN: This morning, in our series, "Eye on Earth," we look at how working from home is affecting the environment. When people all over the world don't go to the office, there are fewer cars on the road. That's good for stopping air pocket pollution, but a recent U.N. report found an unexpected seven percent drop in emissions this year will have an insignificant effect on the overall global warming trend. Mark Phillips shows how working from home can actually impact the planet more than you may realize.

MARK PHILLIPS; For a lot of us in these COVID times, the morning commute has developed into its own routine, fighting all that traffic down the hallway and into the home office. But if there's one consolation to this new way of life, it's the feeling that, however solitary, it may be better for the planet. We are, after all, producing a whole lot less of the global warming greenhouse gases that we used to by spewing our way to work in our cars and then spending our days in power-hungry offices.

Well, hold the smugness. Working from home is not cost-free, and the more of us who do it, the more environmentally expensive it becomes. Every e-mail and text, especially the unnecessary little ones -- every "thank you" and "got it," -- every time we hit send or download or stream or zoom, they all require power. Somewhere massive banks of computers are storing and processing that data, sucking up enormous amounts of electrical energy to do it. The cloud doesn't so much have a silver lining as a carbon one.

MIKE BERNERS-LEE, AUTHOR: I mean, it's certainly good for the planet to save your commute.

PHILLIPS: But Mike Berners-Lee, who has written on the carbon cost of everything, says it's not that simple.

BERNERS-LEE; But, on the other hand, if you're at home with the heating on, which it wouldn't otherwise have to be, then that's not so good, and you're probably using more computing stuff than you would be.

PHILLIPS: Think about it: Every e-mail we send not only requires electricity to write -- as it travels across the internet and gets stored and transferred from one megaserver to another, gobbling up energy along the way. Then, if it gets read, it sucks up even more power. An e-mail may use just five percent of the power needed to deliver a paper letter, but we send and receive gazillions of them. Someone here has actually done the math and figured that if everyone in Britain sent one less "thank you" e-mail a day, the carbon saving would be like taking about three and a half thousand cars off the road. It's just a rough calculation, but the principle is accurate.

(...)
 


I.T. Is a huge consumer of power and growing exponentially. Many more people are receiving and sending emails. So many more are streaming. Isn't that creating an energy hungry infrastructure?
>> Yeah, it is. We estimate the whole of information communication technology is probably responsible for somewhere between 2% and 4% of the whole world's carbon footprint. And that's a big deal and it's becoming a bigger deal.
>> P.
>> Reporter: Maybe the question we need to be asking is do I really need to send this. For "CBS this morning," I'm mark Phillips in London. >>.
>> It's actually a lot less energy to text someone. Just don't send a gif or anything else that could use up

[7:43:11 AM]

more energy.
>> I know vlad you were working from home for so long. You actually had a crew.
>> Yeah, we had a crew, lights, cameras and the electric bill was a little bit higher.
>> Have you expensed that yet?
>> I have not.

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