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Spam, not only annoying, it’s killing the planet

by Alan Harten
April 15, 2009

Millions of times a day, around the world, people scroll for the “delete all” button to rid themselves of unwanted junk mail.

Now, startling new information reveals just how “unwanted” that spam might really be.

In 2008, the people who clog our communications with unsolicited emails burned enough energy to power 2.5 million American homes.

Add the CO2 emission effect on the earth’s climate to that incredible energy wastage and “spammers” are no longer merely annoying, they are enemies of our planet.

We can thank the security firm McAfee for the revelation in a study that shows how much environmental damage spammers cause.

Despite the best efforts of systems designed to prevent spam ever getting to our inbox, the McAfee report estimates that over 100 billion hours a year are used by people sifting through and deleting unsolicited mail.

Microsoft has previously issued studies that show unwanted mail accounting for 97 percent of all mail traffic.

The “Carbon Footprint of E-mail Spam Report” drilled into data from energy and environmental consultancy ICF International Inc.

Much of the information presented in the new report is just plain scary.

For example, the energy used to process and delete one item of spam is the same as required to drive an automobile about a metre.

That same mouse click releases 0.3 grams of CO2 into our atmosphere.

A small amount, but not when multiplied by 62 trillion, which is how many junk mails went out last year.

The spammers, however, claim to burn less energy “per mail” than legitimate emails.

They need to keep their mail attachments smaller to avoid detection and prosecution.

McAfee says that regular emails generate around 4 grams of carbon emission per email, which is over a dozen times more polluting than the average spam mail.

This is probably because users take more time to read and respond to mail they actually want.

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