Although people don’t hear about it nearly as much as they used to — because of the struggling economy and upcoming election — global climate change is still a huge problem. In 2011 alone, the Earth experienced what the Washington Post called, “a series of record-busting extremes,” including severe droughts and a particularly painful tornado season. However, even though the public’s attention has been diverted, several unintended consequence of the Internet could save the world — or at least help.
- Email: Even though many take it f or granted, email should be listed as one of the greatest Green inventions of all time. Not only does it save paper, but it saves the gas that it would take to distribute the letter. The economy is in bad shape, but imagine how much worse it would be if people still had to send letters over land.
- Bills: Many companies — such as insurance agencies — offer customers discounts for paying their bills online, which saves money, paper, and gas!
- Books: Similarly, ebooks help reduce emissions — and paper dependence — still further. Although many people still love traditional books, the rise of ebooks could be a very good thing from a global point of view.
Bringing Down the House
- Casinos: In 2008, Claude Alexander, a global climate change researcher, suggested shutting down all the casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City because it would lower the world’s carbon emissions, “several billion units per day,” citing the extreme amount of air conditioning, lights, and jet fuel that the casino industry requires. Four years later, even though Alexander clearly didn’t get his wish, the flourishing of online casinos — something that Alexander supported — has almost certainly helped the problem. Considering the thousands — even millions — of people who play online casino games, surely many of those who would have flown to a major gambling city to have their fun are now opting to stay at home.
- Retail: Again, shopping online helps cut down on carbon gas emissions as well. “Why?” you might say, “the packages still have to be delivered, so gas is still used.” That’s true. However, as I just spent my entire afternoon shopping for a specific thing, I can tell you: the gas used to deliver the object is much less than the gas used shopping around. Actually, even if you know exactly where to get what you want, the item still had to be shipped to the store — which is heated, cooled, and lit — and then you have to go get it, rather than having the object go straight from a warehouse to your home.
Not a Complete Solution
I am not saying that these things are going to solve global climate change on their own. Obviously, people still need to consciously work on reducing carbon emissions. But, it’s important to recognize the huge unintended benefits that the Internet has yielded.