During these past couple of weeks, we’ve seen a lot of clamor on social media for people to delete their old emails and change their search engines in an effort to help the environment. But do these things really help?
A growing number of scientists are willing to risk arrest in a desperate bid to get leaders to act on the climate crisis. Listen to climate scientist Peter Kalmus @ClimateHuman choke up as he and others at @ScientistRebel1 block an entrance to @Chase in LA today.📷 via organizers pic.twitter.com/60qPe7RFuj
— Catrin Einhorn (@CatrinEinhorn) April 6, 2022
On April 4, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a detailed, major report, warning that we are in a “now or never” situation to limit the impact of global warming.
On April 6, scientists from all over the world staged simultaneous protests asking people to listen to the warnings of climate change experts. One that caught the eye of netizens from all parts of the world is the protest of climate scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They joined a protest organized by Scientist Rebellion, where they chained themselves to the doors of a JPMorgan Chase building. According to a report by a group of nongovernment organizations, JPMorgan Chase is the largest contributing bank in financing fossil fuels.
“I’m here because scientists are not being listened to. I’m willing to take a risk for this gorgeous planet,” Dr Peter Kalmus said, still chained to the door and tearing up. “For my sons.”
“This is for all of the kids of the world, all of the young people, all of the future people,” he later added. “This is so much bigger than any of us.”
When *scientists* around the world are putting their bodies on the line to warn the public about the climate emergency, it’s time to pay attention. The media can only ignore it for so long. Share this video and help spread the word. #ScientistRebellion #ClimateCrisis pic.twitter.com/qq47Yp9f6q
— Climate Ad Project (@ClimateAd) April 11, 2022
The scientists were later arrested after a number of armed police officers arrived at the scene.
In the local sphere
Over the years, the Philippines have been one of the countries hit hardest by climate change. The severe impact of the crisis is most obvious in the worsening climate and weather conditions in the country, with a number of tropical storms devastating people’s lives and homes year by year.
The first in a series of short films on climate impacts in the #WorldWeWant campaign launching today, Cathy from the #Philippines shares how the #climatecrisis has affected their harvest and health – and the local solutions to mitigate it #ClimateAction ➡️https://t.co/QkttMWlEGM pic.twitter.com/tzLuuKsxBW
— Climate Action Network International (CAN) (@CANIntl) October 12, 2020
Drone shot of the landslide in Barangay Pilar Abuyog, Leyte. More than a hundred residents are still missing and feared buried under the landslide. Reporting for @CGTNOfficial pic.twitter.com/eTwKmcGG4S
— gretchen malalad (@gretchenmalalad) April 16, 2022
instead of using google, use ecosia! it is a search engine same as google but the difference is for every search they will plant a tree!https://t.co/g7FnPf0sq4
— ًcio. (@jenofitz) April 14, 2022
Following the scientists’ protests, a slew of social media posts featuring the hashtag #LetTheEarthBreathe has gone viral. Content ranges from raising awareness on the climate crisis and encouraging everyone to join the movement to sharing small actions that individuals can do to help reduce carbon footprint. Some of these small ways include but are not limited to:
- travelling without the use of fuel
- unplugging devices not in use
- practicing zero-waste lifestyle
- switching your primary search engine to Ecosia (which donate their profits to reforestation efforts), and
- deleting unwanted emails.
Yes, you read that right. One of the suggested actions an individual can take is something as simple as deleting emails.
Please delete unwanted emails, the average email size is about 75 kb. If everyone deletes around 10 unwanted emails, it could prevent 1,725,000 GB of data. Deleting emails is the easiest way to reduce your Carbon footprint on the computer.#LetTheEarthBreathe pic.twitter.com/qnCY3XP7P2
— ✨sarah is into stelljun✨ (@SarahnghaeSB19) April 14, 2022
Do emails produce carbon?
Short answer: yes.
Anything that you send over the internet goes through a long chain of electronics that use up a lot of energy. From your device, an email sends a corresponding signal to your wi-fi router, then your local router, then to your internet service provider (ISP), then to huge data centers or server farms, then to the recipient’s ISP, router, and device — all of which use up a lot of electricity. If you keep those emails in your inbox, these emails will then occupy data space in the servers, which are operated 24/7 with massive amounts of energy.
So yes, there is some carbon footprint involved in sending, receiving, and storing emails. And when you multiply that to the number of emails you have in your inbox and to the number of people using emails all over the world, the number you get is huge. According to renewable electricity firm Ovo Energy, there could be a reduction of 16,433 tons of carbon per year if the population of the United Kingdom sent at least one less email a day. But how big exactly is that number in relation to the global carbon footprint?
Does deleting emails really help?
Unfortunately, while that 16,433-ton figure seems to be a big help, it’s basically a drop in the ocean of 36.3 billion tons of global CO2 emissions, the highest ever.
So now, the question is: does deleting emails really help? It does, somewhat, but it’s not enough.
“The reality is that a lot of the system will still have impact, whether or not the email is sent,” Chris Preist, professor of sustainability and computer systems at the University of Bristol, told BBC News. “Your laptop will still be on, your wi-fi will still be on, your home internet connection will still be on, the wider network will still use roughly the same amount of energy even with a reduction in volume. There will be a small saving in the data center hosting the email, particularly if it allows them to use a few less servers. But the carbon saved will be far far less than 1g per email.”
So while it does help telling your family and friends to delete their unwanted emails, it’s only a tiny speck in the cosmos. The climate crisis is bigger than an individual.
Corporations must be held accountable
Cancelling or demonizing regular individuals like you and me isn’t the answer. The ones we need to call out are the private firms who exceed more than their fair share of carbon footprint. In fact, a 2017 study reported that only 100 companies are actually responsible for 71% of global emissions. That’s more than half of the more than 30 billion ton of global emissions.
Here’s your reminder that the whole idea of a personal carbon footprint was a targeted BP media campaign in 2005 and it worked so well that it seems like we’ve all forgotten this https://t.co/XQAPoABQHy pic.twitter.com/qb87fQegeO
— Ryan Orbuch (@orbuch) April 5, 2021
It doesn’t help that these corporations have essentially shifted the burden of reducing carbon footprint to the individual (see: oil giant Beyond Petroleum’s media campaign to make the idea of “personal carbon footprint” common and everyday).
The big corporations and private firms are the ones we need to hold accountable for how much carbon footprint they leave for their own benefit.
Don’t Look Up is closer to reality than we think
so “Don’t Look Up” is not exaggerated, it is really happening now. Arresting them is not a solution. LISTEN AND STOP IGNORING THEM!! pic.twitter.com/EfyWbhDQci
— ken⁷♡ (@strwbrryknn) April 14, 2022
Netizens have also likened the current situation with the apocalyptic black comedy Don’t Look Up. The film follows two scientists (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) as they attempt to warn the government, the media, and the whole world of an approaching comet that would bring an end to the world.
A particular scene in the film involving the two scientists being interviewed on television, where the media made light of their warnings, has captured the attention of netizens for its eerie similarity to an actual real-world interview with climate activist Miranda Whelehan of Just Stop Oil on Good Morning Britain.
So we at the @MehdiHasanShow put them side by side & the results are.. astounding. Reality mirroring art!
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) April 13, 2022
Bottom line: Delete emails, but do more, too
Delete unwanted emails? Yes. Change your browser? Sure. Save electricity? Go ahead. Recycle? Big fat yes.
But there’s also a need to go beyond doing these things at the individual level. It’s time to join climate experts in calling out and clamoring for accountability from big corporations, private firms, and our governments to take action before we all end up in an end-of-the-world scenario like we’ve seen in Don’t Look Up. It’s time to listen to the goddamn qualified scientists.
— Bea💚🌽 (@23PSH) April 14, 2022
What are you doing to help curb climate change?