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As we all know, spam sucks. And here’s another reason to hate it: Spam uses 33 billion kWh and emits 17 million metric tons of carbon per year, according to a new report from computer security firm McAfee and carbon consulting group ICF International. That’s the equivalent of 0.3 grams of carbon per spam message.
But to put that in perspective, compare it to the energy consumed by activity on the rest of the Internet. Legitimate email, for example, emits a full four grams of carbon, according to the report. One Google search query, on the other hand, emits just 0.2 grams, according to Google. Further, a whopping 80 percent of the energy consumed by spam is expended by searching through and deleting it — and as Jeremy Kaplan points out on GoodCleanTech, it’s hard to distinguish that from regular computer use. In other words, cutting spam won’t really cut the energy expenditure of the Internet as drastically as spam tool vendor McAfee would have you believe.