Study Claims Spam Is Hurting The Environment

    April 15, 2009

Can spam cause damage to the environment and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions?

That’s what a study from McAfee and climate-change researchers ICF have concluded. The study "Carbon Footprint of Spam" released today, found the global annual energy used to transmit, process and filter spam totals 33 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 33 terawatt hours (TWh).

That’s equal to the electricity used in 2.4 million homes, with the same green-house gas as 3.1 million passenger cars using 2 billion gallons of gas.

"As the world faces the growing problem of climate change, this study highlights that spam has an immense financial, personal and environmental impact on businesses and individuals," said Jeff Green, senior vice president of product development and McAfee Avert Labs.

"Stopping spam at its source, as well investing in state-of-the-art spam filtering technology, will save time and money, and will pay dividends to the planet by reducing carbon emissions as well."

Percentage of GHG Emissions per Spam Message

While the study could be viewed as a marketing ploy to sell spam filtering it does point out that filtering spam also has an environmental impact.

Much of the energy associated with spam (nearly 80%) comes from users deleting spam and searching for legitimate email. Spam filtering accounts for 16 percent of spam related energy use.

Broken down by country, the United States and India tended to have proportionately higher emissions per email users. The United States had emissions 38 times that of Spain.

Spain came in at the lowest, with both the smallest amount of email that was received as spam and the smallest amount of energy use for spam per email user.