Example of Why Climate Science is Becoming a Laughingstock

Some of you may have seen this at my other blog, where I ran it by accident, thinking I was posting here.   From the Thin Green Line, a reliable source for any absurd science that supports environmental alarmism:

Sending and receiving email makes up a full percent of a relatively green person’s annual carbon emissions, the equivalent of driving 200 miles.
Dealing with spam, however, accounts for more than a fifth of the average account holder’s electricity use. Spam makes up a shocking 80 percent of all emails sent, but most people get rid of them as fast as you can say “delete.”
So how does email stack up to snail mail? The per-message carbon cost of email is just 1/60th of the old-fashioned letter’s. But think about it — you probably send at least 60 times as many emails a year than you ever did letters.

One way to go greener then is to avoid sending a bunch of short emails and instead build a longer message before you send it.

This is simply hilarious, and reminds me of the things the engineers would fool the pointy-haired boss with in Dilbert.  Here was my response:

This is exactly the kind of garbage analysis that is making the environmental movement a laughing stock.

In computing the carbon footprint of email, the vast majority of the energy in the study was taking the amount of energy used by a PC during email use (ie checking, deleting, sending, organizing) and dividing it by the number of emails sent or processed. The number of emails is virtually irrelevant — it is the time spent on the computer that matters. So futzing around trying to craft one longer email from many shorter emails does nothing, and probably consumers more energy if it takes longer to write than the five short emails.

This is exactly the kind of peril that results from a) reacting to the press release of a study without understanding its methodology (or the underlying science) and b) focusing improvement efforts on the wrong metrics.

The way to save power is to use your computer less, and to shut it down when not in use rather than leaving it on standby.

If one wants to argue that the energy is from actually firing the bits over the web, this is absurd. Even if this had a measurable energy impact, given the very few bytes in an email, reducing your web surfing by one page a day would keep more bytes from moving than completely giving up email.

By the way, the suggestion for an email charge in the linked article is one I have made for years, though the amount is too high. A charge of even 1/100 cent per email would cost each of us about a penny per day but would cost a 10 million mail spammer $1000, probably higher than his or her expected yield from the spam.

17 thoughts on “Example of Why Climate Science is Becoming a Laughingstock

  1. Jim

    That won’t stop some less than bright spark bringing out an environmental email tax or an email offset program to counter one’s guilt. All great lies start with half truths.

  2. anon

    The dullards don’t realize the vast majority of a computers power is used to COOL THE PROCESSOR DURRRR

  3. Emil

    there is no way to tax emails unless running an “unlicenced” email server becomes illegal, then there will be more costs with the accounting than with sending and receiving emails …

  4. Gator

    My employer has a link to “green tips” that us lowly workers are supposed to use to reduce global warming…

    “Try using a correction pen as opposed to bottled correction liquid. It won’t dry out as fast, and you’ll likely use less. Also, make sure the correction fluid you use is water based. If every office assistant used one less bottle of correction fluid per year, the savings could coat the White House.” (How about we not make mistakes like the one in the White House instead.)

    “When given the option, choose “no” when you are asked if you want an ATM receipt or a “pay at the pump” receipt. “ATM receipts are one of the top sources of litter on the planet. If everyone in the United States left their receipt in the machine, it would save a roll of paper more than two billion feet long, or enough to circle the equator fifteen times.” (And if my aunt had, oh never mind.)

    “Did you know that it is better for you (and the environment!) if you turn off your car when you expect to idle for more than just 6 seconds?” (How is that on car and battery!)

    “If you use fabric softener sheets in your dryer, after you use them in the dryer, reuse them to clean shower doors, mirrors and glass. They work very well to clean soap scum and keep mirrors from fogging over. Best of all, you don’t create additional paper towel waste.” (Would love to see the people who actually do this, OCD.)

    “Call your local school to see if they can use any old crayons, colored pencils, paper, notebooks, magazines, wires, nuts, bolts, etc. in the classroom or for art projects. This is a great way to keep these items out of the landfill and help your community!” (Yeah, they will love you for that!)

    And finally…

    “Recycle old trophies by sending them to trophy manufacturers that refurbish and engrave the trophies for donation to non-profit organizations. (Now we know what to do with Gore’s Academy, Grammy, Webby and Nobel)

  5. Waldonotorious

    Never heard of greenline–but for once (or twice) I have to agree with Mr. Meyer: this is simply a silly, silly piece of journalism, probably written by someone with no real knowledge about computers or power.

    Would that Mr. Meyer were as critical and as honed in on the denialists on the Web as well.

  6. Johanus

    @Anon:
    > The dullards don’t realize the vast majority
    > of a computers power is used to COOL THE
    > PROCESSOR DURRRR

    By Jove, you’ve just solved the Global Warming Crisis! You’ve just described “Man-Made Cooling”. So, we all just leave our refrigerator doors open and the Earth will cool off!

    Brilliant! Please, a Nobel Prize for Anon, quickly, before I melt.

  7. BS Footprint

    Ridiculous. I’d bet that watching videos on YouTube (or Netflix) has a much higher cost in terms of computing power (and thus consumes far more energy) than reading/sending emails.

    Most (if not all) modern CPUs and operating systems scale back CPU power (and thus energy use) according to demand, and I’m fairly certain that the processing power required to read a hundred emails is far less than the power required to decode and display a 10-minute video stream. Video processing is much more CPU-intensive.

    Not to mention all the resources used by routers, switches, and other internet infrastructure moving all those video packets around the ‘net.

    According to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index, in 2010, email accounted for 0.23% of all internet traffic, while online video was responsible for at least 28.05% (more than any other category)! This is inevitable, since an email message consumes a small fraction of the resources required to store and transmit even a short, 10-minute video.

    Time to slap Youtube and Netflix with a special ‘carbon tax’ ? :D

  8. Justa Joe

    “Did you know that it is better for you (and the environment!) if you turn off your car when you expect to idle for more than just 6 seconds?” (How is that on car and battery!)”

    Looks like the “green” clowns are working at cross purposes. As previously mentioned the wear and tear on car batteries and starter motors would be greater than any reduction in ‘emissions’.

    Also the real pollutants that cars do produce NOX(s)& unburned hydrocarbons are greatest during start-up.

  9. Wally

    “online video was responsible for at least 28.05%”

    90% of which was probably porn. Time for an online porn tax!

  10. Lex

    What if I write a stupid comment here, you want to make me pay for that CO2 emission?
    Pay for your free speech slaves. Smells like freedom…NOT.

  11. Steve

    It is also helpful to check your e-mail encoding before you hit “send”. Make sure you choose letters which translate to more 0s than 1s, because the smooth 0s travel through the wires more easily than the 1s, and therefore take less energy to send.

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