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Contribution of mobile phones to global warming

  1. Nov 22, 2015 #1

    Where can I find a research or statics about the contribution of cellulars or general mobile devices (tablets, PDAs) to the global warming? But I am looking for specifically cellular phones for a project.

    Thanks a lot!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2015 #2


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    Are you serious? What makes you think there there is a measurable contribution?
  4. Nov 22, 2015 #3
    Yes, I can see no reason that makes calculating number of active devices and their daily electric consumption impossible. Regardless their production process...
  5. Nov 22, 2015 #4
    Ah, so you are not saying that mobile devices directly contribute to global warming.
    Are you saying that they add up to a considerable demand for power, and that this demand for power has to be serviced by additional power stations?
    ... and that the additional power stations in many cases will be using fossil fuels, adding to CO2 emission.

    My guess is that the amount of power demanded by using mobile devices is not a big factor in the total demand for power.
    I would think that heavy industries, ordinary domestic power supply, and transport systems are the big factors
  6. Nov 22, 2015 #5
    Exactly! I didn't think about the base stations but may be they should be even taken into account. Ofcourse, heavy industries and transportation are the main factors but in my project I want to mention about junk mails and other unnecessary usage of communication means. I want to use those global warming statics as one of my arguments. There is data about junk mail but I was able to find no data about cellulars.
  7. Nov 22, 2015 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Using Google:

    "number of cell phones in the world" = 6.8B
    "average cell phone battery capacity" = 3.5V x 3000 mAh
    "total worldwide electricity production" = 20,000 TWh /year

    You can use these numbers to calculate that cell phone use a fraction of a percent of the generated power. Which fraction is up to you to calculate.
  8. Nov 22, 2015 #7
    I guess, not that easy actually. The electricity generation methods and the number of base stations veries from country to country which makes the CO2 calculation abit more complex. Maybe berkeman was right. There is no significant contribution of cellulars to the global warming. It can be neglected...
  9. Nov 23, 2015 #8


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    You also have to consider what the alternatives are. Even if all mobile phones were to vanish tomorrow, people wouldn't stop communicating. So even if you could calculate how much CO2 is produced because of mobile phones, this doesn't translate directly into an effect on global warming.
  10. Nov 24, 2015 #9
    The energy required to mine, transport, and manufacture the cell phones sold each year will be quite large. The base stations also consume far more power than phones themselves, and also require energy to manufacture, including many rare materials.

    On older 2G systems, the base stations I worked on could consume 20kW or more, and the RF out was only a small fraction of that. They had large air conditioners eating more power to keep them cool. The efficiencies have gotten better. There are also the towers, big coax going up the towers to the antennas, etc.

    The lifetime before obsolescence is very short for both the phones and the base station (analog, 2G, 3G, 4G, ...).
  11. Nov 26, 2015 #10
    What's the carbon footprint of an email?
    See this article posted on phys.org under home/Earth/Environment on November 26, 2015 by Joshua Melvin
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 26, 2015
  12. Nov 29, 2015 #11
    Similar studies have been done for computers, i believe - find those and check where they got their data ? Do you look at the production of the cellulars etc... as well or just at the energy use ? I would expect that the use of cells has increased efficiency in production, transport and logistics in a way that might be beneficial compared to the way how things were done before. F.e. less physical transport for letters. Less infrastructure copper wire etc...
    Good luck
  13. Dec 3, 2015 #12
    You could start with "How Bad Are Bananas? - the carbon footprint of everything" by Mike Berners-Lee. This will give you some general principles as well as maybe the data you are looking for. Another good source that touches on personal device energy consumption is Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air by David Mackay.

    As others have said a mobile (cellular) phone or device has to be seen as a mere terminal of a more substantial energy-using system, including the base stations, the backhaul networks, the factories that make the phones and other hardware etc etc. So a full system (and lifetime) analysis is needed to answer a well formed question such as:

    If World A has no mobile phones, and World B has enthusiastically adopted them, how much more GHG emissions (and hence atmospheric warming) can World B expect?
  14. Dec 4, 2015 #13
    Which leads to the real question. How much human society can the earth really stand? Besides the gaseous emissions (power, food production, transportation, and commercialism) we have water shortages, pollutants, rapid population growth, and a third world that wants a first world lifestyle. Add to that what seems to be a escalating period of climate variability that is re-sculpting the habitable regions of our planet. Finally we have the stupidity to poison our oceans, fish them to single digit populations, cut down our rain forests when they provide the very air we breath, and exhaust 60% of the planets readily available rare minerals in less than 100 years. How long before we find out we've taken too much.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015
  15. Dec 11, 2015 #14


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    When I was in high school, every guy looked forward to getting his drivers license and first car. "Cruising" on Saturday nights was a popular thing to do. Today I teach high school. I asked my students why this "love affair" with the car doesn't exist any more. Most guessed because of social media. They're more interested in online gaming and communicating than driving around talking on CB radios.

    Tablets and cell phones also make it easier to telecommute.

    So perhaps they provide a negative feedback to CO2.
  16. Dec 20, 2015 #15
    I agree with Winkkin.

    To put it bluntly, Homo sapiens (surely a misnomer!) has become nothing less than vermin on this planet.
    Our inherent greed has put us on a path to eventual extinction. The planet itself will recover - as will life itself. Think of the extinction of the Dinosaurs and the way mammals subsequently evolved. Some other organism will replace us... Maybe cockroaches or rats, which are great survivors!

    But we are dooming ourselves by our shortsighted stupidity.
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