Sunday, May 24, 2009
Gadget Happy Consumers Threaten Greenhouse Gas Targets
It looks like we may be Twittering and I-Phoning our way out of a chance to limit global warming. The addiction to being connected and entertained via electronic devices on a 24/7 basis has been increasing the consumption of energy around the world just as the need to reduce energy consumption has become critical to the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. An article in The Guardian says that a study by the International Energy Agency forecasts that the total energy consumed by information, communication, and consumer technologies will triple in only two decades. By the end of this year it is expected that there will be 1,000,000,000 personal computers in the world. As computers continue to advance with more powerful processors, greater memory capacity, etc. they require more energy. There are nearly 2,000,000,000 televisions in the world and the new large plasma-screen TVs are particularly energy hungry. Wind turbines and solar panels will not be able to replace fossil fuels if energy demand keeps rising. The conclusion seems inescapable that the digital lifestyle is on a collision course with nature. The Director of the International Energy Agency, Nobuo Tanaka, is quoted as saying “Despite anticipated improvements in the efficiency of electronic devices, these savings are likely to be overshadowed by the rising demand for technology.” In other words, if we want to have a habitable planet maybe we should consider going back to reading books, listening to the radio, and talking on a corded phone. Okay, that may sound somewhat boring but it beats extinction any day of the week.