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Focus on the EnvironmentHow Much Climate Change Is In Our Kids' Internet Habits?

How Much Climate Change Is In Our Kids’ Internet Habits?

A lot. Just another reason to get them outside and off their devices

As islanders, Bermudians are all too aware of the impacts and risks of climate change. Sea levels are rising, and major storms are becoming more frequent. And as parents, we’re also well aware of how much time our kids spend on their devices. What many don’t realize is how connected the two are — that our increasing technology use has a huge (and growing) carbon footprint. It’s just another reason to stay actively engaged with your child’s technology use, and to provide healthy alternatives.

If the Internet were a country, it would rank 4th globally for greenhouse gas emissions, greater than Russia, and below only China, the United States, and India. The Internet, together with the devices used to access it, produces roughly a billion tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to the Boston Consulting Group. Other estimates place the carbon footprint of digital technologies between 1.5% and 6% of the global emissions that are heating our planet.

The reason is simple: much of the world still relies on coal to generate the copious electricity that makes the Internet work. This dirty ‘juice’ powers massive data centres, all the routers, switches, and other Internet infrastructure that transmit data, plus the devices we use to get online. Those silly videos and memes aren’t just keeping your kids from their homework; they’re producing extra puffs of greenhouse gas. Tiny on their own, but with 4.66 billion Internet users doing it, it’s a real concern.

The data center in Eemshaven, Netherlands runs on 100% wind and solar power. Bermuda Parent Magazine uses renewable energy to run its website.

Perhaps more alarming is the trend. While the aviation industry’s contribution to global warming is levelling off — thanks to considerable investments in fuel efficient design, the tech sector in contrast is gobbling up a growing percentage of global energy (and water). This is fuelled not only by our “online everything” lifestyles, but by the collection and processing of unprecedented quantities of information on consumers (“big data”), artificial intelligence, bitcoin mining, and the rollout of 5G networks. 5G (and faster Internet connections more generally) have especially led to an explosion in how much data we can and do send. Remember how tiny and awful digital photos used to be? We now carry professional grade cameras in our pockets, and merrily send gobs of data back & forth, unwittingly contributing to CO2 in the atmosphere.

The implications for Bermuda are real. A study for the Bermuda National Trust found that ocean expansion alone (oceans expand as they heat up) could cause over 460 acres in Bermuda to be under water by the end of the century. But our seas aren’t just expanding, so the actual number will likely be higher, due to meltwater from Greenland and Antartica. Additional acres will be vulnerable to storm surge, as hurricanes become more violent, and as significant storms wander north with more frequency. Estimates vary, but Hurricanes Fabian and Gonzalo together caused damages in the neighbourhood of $1 billion in today’s dollars.

Technology is a growing cause of climate change, but one that we can mitigate and discuss with our children. Getting off those devices isn’t just good for their brains, it’s good for Bermuda’s coasts. 

There are already lots of reasons to encourage your children to spend less time on their devices. Guilting them out about climate change probably won’t help, especially if you suspect a legitimate addiction issue. Know the signs of real addiction and seek professional help if you suspect it. But presented in a positive light, getting outside and exercising along the very coasts that are threatened could be a mutually rewarding habit, and a teachable moment for the next generation. If they already cherish Bermuda’s gorgeous coasts, harbours, and healthy marine environments (who doesn’t?), you might just have a new way to entice them away from those games and videos. That big beautiful world outside will actually benefit from them being there.

By the way, if you’re reading this online, you’re accessing a website powered by wind. Bermuda Parent Magazine has partnered with OrganicHost to deliver its content with renewable wind and solar energy. Cool, right? Now stop reading this and get those kids outside. 

Sea level rise is anticipated to consume hundreds of acres of Bermuda’s coast, according to a study commissioned by the Bermuda National Trust.

About the Author

Mike DeHart is a geographer, educator, and Web developer with decades of experience helping businesses, nonprofits, and schools build successful online strategies. His client list includes big shots like World Bank and Smithsonian, small mom & pops, and everything in between. A passionate environmentalist, he founded OrganicHost to provide green websites to people and organizations committed to reducing their environmental impact. Contact him at:

mike@organichost.com

WhatsApp: +1 415-519-3400

www.organichost.com

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