Email spam harmful to environment?

Spam emails are a nuisance, clogging up inboxes and cluttering accounts, but a new report says the unwanted messages can also be damaging to the environment.

TORONTO — Spam emails are a nuisance, clogging up inboxes and cluttering accounts, but a new report says the unwanted messages can also be damaging to the environment.

The report by security technology company McAfee Inc. says researchers found the amount of energy used to transmit, process and filter spam emails totals 22 billion kilowatt hours annually.

“We are raising environmental awareness in different ways,” said David Marcus, the security research and communication director for McAfee Avert Labs.

He said the report shows the yearly environmental impact from spam emails adds up to a person driving around the world 1.6 million times.

The emission associated with a single spam message is only a meagre 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide, but multiplied, Marcus said the impact is severe.

“You may think that’s fluff, that’s a dinky amount, but when you take a look at 2008 and you realize there was 62 trillion email messages that were spam, that actually adds up to an awful lot of carbon. I think it’s actually the same amount of power that would power 3.1 million homes.”

Marcus said 80 per cent of the energy expended comes from users deleting the spam.