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The evil carbon footprint of spam

emailSo we all knew already that spam is irritating, time-wasting, memory-clogging and potentially computer-damaging … but did you ever stop to think it might also be bad for the climate?

Turns out yes, it is … and by quite a bit.

Computer security firm McAfee commissioned the climate consultancy ICF International to assess the carbon footprint of spam, and here’s what the study found:

  • Some 62 trillion spam messages were sent out last year;
  • Worldwide spam is responsible for annual energy consumption of 33 billion kilowatt-hours — enough to power 2.4 million US homes;
  • Spam generated as many greenhouse gases as 3.1 million passenger cars, with the average message responsible for 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide;
  • A typical mid-size business uses about 50,000 kilowatt-hours or energy each year for email — of that, more than one-fifth can be attributed to spam;
  • Protecting every email inbox with state-of-the-art spam filtering could reduce spam’s global energy consumption by 75 per cent.

“While the spam that arrives in any individual’s inbox may create just a small puff of CO2, the puff multiplied by millions of users worldwide adds up,” the study states. “Taking careful measures to discourage spammers worldwide can lead to meaningful reductions in energy use and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and save the world’s email users time and money.”

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