Computers' Negative Impact on Climate Change

Computers, printers, mobile phones and the widgets that accompany them account for the emission of about two per cent of the estimated total of emissions from human activity. And that is the same as the aviation industry's contribution. 25 per cent of the emissions in question are generated by the manufacture of computers. The rest come from their use.

Manufacture

Producing computers uses up lots of energy. This adds to climate change because fossil fuels are burned to create the energy.

70 per cent of the energy a typical laptop will consume during its lifespan is used in manufacturing the computer: 227–270 kilograms (or 500–594 pounds) of CO2 are emitted in manufacturing a laptop computer.

Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3)

Burning Earth

Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), a binary compound of nitrogen and fluorine, is a colourless, toxic, non-flammable, corrosive gas shipped in cylinders at high pressure. NF3 is a greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential (GWP) 17,200 times greater than that of CO2 when compared over a 100-year period. NF3 is used as a chamber cleaning gas in the manufacture of semiconductors, flat panel displays and other electronic devices. When released into the atmosphere it has a powerful and long-lasting warming effect.

Use of Electricity

A typical desktop computer uses about 65–250 watts. Add another 15–70 watts for an LCD monitor. A typical cable modem uses 7 watts, a router: 4.5 watts.Most laptop computers use about 15–60 watts, far less than desktops.

Server Farms

Server Farm

By far the biggest use of energy by computers is made by the server farms that power the internet. ‘Server farms’ is the term used to describe the vast arrays of servers used by large internet-based companies like Google and Amazon. Server farms contain thousands of servers and use a lot of energy to power them and to cool them. One 50,000 square foot data centre uses about 5 megawatts, enough to power 5,000. This level of energy consumption is just by the servers themselves. The cooling systems use as much energy as the plants!