Internet a major contributor to climate change, finds new book

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

September 24th, 2018

The Internet is a major contributor to climate change and greenhouse gases are lowering humans’ mental abilities, a new book argues.

Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now, written by Microsoft computer scientist Jaron Lanier finds that the internet, one of the greatest sources of information about climate change, is now contributing to the phenomenon.

Lanier, a seasoned Silicon Valley expert who is credited with coining the term virtual reality, writes that while we imagine The Cloud as a non-existing entity, its environmental cost is quite palpable.

All types of internet activity, from a simple like on social media to posting a photo on Instagram, requires the storage of an extensive quantity of data.

Data centres

Mr Lanier argues that if people deleted their social media accounts, it would significantly curtail data centres’ massive energy consumption, making the internet a relatively eco-friendly technology – like it was during the 90s.

A recent study from Trinity College Dublin revealed that the increasing demand of data centres for electricity is undermining Irish electricity generation and grid infrastructure.“Electricity demand in Ireland is increasing and is forecast to increase significantly over the next eight years,” Dr Paul Deane, an energy researcher at University College Cork (UCC) told The Green News.

“This is largely due to new data centres being built for storing information from our devices and computers,” he said.

“These data consume quite a lot of electricity and because our electricity grid in Ireland is not very green this extra demand will result in power plants releasing about 10 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere over the eight-year period.”

Undermining cognitive ability

Global warming, Lanier also argues, is rendering information technologies less-efficient while also hampering the flow of wireless transmission and satellite communications.

Lanier cites a study which revealed that the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is undermining human cognitive ability.

“Carbon dioxide clouds the mind,” Lanier writes. It directly degrades our ability to think clearly, and we are walling it into our places of education and pumping it into the atmosphere.”

A growing body of research has revealed that high carbon dioxide concentrations have a significant impact on human intelligence and decision making.

“The crisis of global warming is a crisis of the mind, a crisis of thought, a crisis in our ability to think another way to be,” Lanier says. “Soon, we shall not be able to think at all.”

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.