Charging devices will generate 13 Megatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2019 – more than double today’s figure
Humans will generate more than 13 Megatonnes of greenhouse gas by charging their phones in 2019, according to a report. This is less than the emissions caused by making and shipping the phones, but it means the world’s mobile devices will cause as much global warming as a small country such as Jamaica or Macedonia does today.
The figure just covers the emissions created at the phone, not those from manufacturing and delivery or from the cloud services the phones consume, but it is increasing alarmingly from this year’s estimate of 6.4 Mtonnes, according to the report’s authors, Juniper Research.
Around half of the emissions will be produced in the Far East where the phone market is expanding rapidly, and electricity grids are heavily dependent on coal-fired electricity.
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The researchers don’t issue a call for consumers to cut their charging but instead think vendors should take charge since they have control of the other emissions associated with phones, in their manufacture and eventual disposal.
With devices made in the Far East, packaged, and shipped round the world, the supply chain is still a far greater source of emissions than the power used by the phone. Suppliers could actually save 57.8 Mtonnes (almost four times the energy used by the devices) by 2019 if they act now, according to Juniper.
“There is low consumer awareness of renewable energy and sustainable habits in these markets,” says the report, Green Mobile: The Complete Guide to Vendor Strategies & Future Prospects 2014-2019. “It is down to vendors to take the lead in making energy companies provide more green electricity for both industry and consumers.”
The way forward is for companies to insist on renewable energy from the grid – or else to fund its generation, as in recent announcements from Microsoft, BT, Google and Apple – says Juniper. This would lower the suppliers’ emissions as well as helping to provide more green energy for consumers.
Juniper also calls for phone makers to use more energy efficient components, as well as making sure that apps are more efficient, pointing out that this would also cheer consumers up by extending their devices’ battery life.
And the research firm ticks vendors off for having designs that make recycling difficult, calling for better end-of-life plans for mobile devices. “Phone design has a large impact on recyclability, as certain design features make recycling uneconomical,” says Juniper.
Standard bodies and politicians have intervened to make phone chargers themselves less of a waste issue – the European Union has backed a standard micro-USB phone charger, so phones don’t need to all have a new one. It’s possible even Apple might be brought into line.