According to a study recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the relative contribution of ICT (information & computer technologies) to the total global carbon footprint is expected to reach 14% by 2040 – more than half the relative contribution of the entire transportation sector worldwide.
With the relative emissions share of smartphones (growing from 4% in 2010 to 11% in 2020) dwarfing those of PCs, laptops and computer displays.
85-95% will be caused by production, including the energy for material mining for gold and rare-earth elements like yttrium, lanthanium and several others that today are almost exclusively available only from China.
Part of the problem too are phone plans that encourage users to get a new smartphone every two years, accelerating the rate at which older models become obsolete and resulting in extraordinary and unnecessary amounts of waste.
The dizzying growth in mobile communications is also driving the pace for data centres. For every text message, video download, photo exchange, email or chat, there’s a 24/7 power-hungry server in some data centre that’s making it happen. This is energy consumption we don’t see.
What can you do about this? If you have a smartphone make it last as long as you can and if/when you do upgrade make sure you recycle your old one. (Only 1% of smartphones are currently being recycled!)