In My Opinion: Bill Magee: Think before you click

AS we all embrace this brave new digital world, have you ever been curious about just how much that single click of your computer’s mouse represents in terms of measuring one’s carbon footprint?

It is estimated that, every minute of every day, a mind-boggling total of 48 hours’ worth of new video content is uploaded onto YouTube. That’s not all: 700,000 Facebook users share content, Google receives over two million search queries and 200 million emails are sent.

Then there’s the billions of tweets and online columns (like this one).

But what does it all mean in terms of you and me?

Well, it’s said that a single search query online can produce between a few tenths of a gram to a few grams of CO2 emissions. That’s according Microsoft’s tech whizzkid, Peter Ferry, also the new boy on the board of ScotlandIS, the trade body for the Scots information and communication technologies industry.

We’ve all zoomed past office buildings on the bus at night and seen through the windows racks of computer screens winking back at us. In monetary terms, leaving a PC on overnight, and over the weekend, can cost around £60 a year.

Just think of the bills being run up by those big organisations with hundreds, even thousands, of machines being left on overnight. Literally thousands of £££s could be saved were ‘sleep mode’ chosen instead and a much lower power state applied.

What’s clear is that we all cannot afford such mis-management of energy usage to go on. ICT products and services are responsible for up to one-tenth of the European Union’s total electricity consumption, plus around four per cent of the EU’s carbon emissions.

So concerned is the European Commission that it has brought together 27 of the planet’s leading tech companies and associations to measure their carbon footprint arising from the production, transport and sales of ICT goods, networks and services.

Neelie Kroes, EC vice-president for the digital agenda, maintains that a significant improvement in transparency, when it comes to total CO2 emissions, should empower all of us – citizens, public and private organisations – to make ‘greener’ choices when we use, or buy, digital technologies.

Now, the commission and relevant industries plan to consult with stakeholders and general industry on how best to further monitor and curb CO2 emissions by each and everyone of us.

In the meantime, Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Minister for Environment and Climate Change, recently told an Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation gathering during Climate Week Scotland (in March), that there’s a new government strategy (A Low Carbon Scotland Behaviours Framework) trying to foster a transition to a low-carbon Scotland.

The minister ‘shone a light’ on positive efforts that already being taken to tackle climate change from all sectors of society, whilst Andrew Millson, head of environment and advisory services at Scottish Business in the Community, said business can play a crucial role.

Mart Stewart, senior events manager at EventScotland, reminded each and everyone of us why we need to tackle climate change – to preserve our natural heritage.

Think before you click, indeed.

Bill Magee is a freelance business technology writer, mainly for Scotland on Sunday newspaper.