Laptops, TVs surprisingly large contributors to climate change

man's hands typing on laptop

If you’re trying to reduce your household’s contribution to climate change, you probably know about the obvious energy hogs, such as clothes dryers and refrigerators.

But when I was reporting a recent story for Chemical & Engineering News, I learned something surprising: Your laptop and television also contribute large amounts of greenhouse emissions.

[Edgar] Hertwich and his colleague Charlotte Roux modeled the greenhouse gases that come from household electronics and appliances in Norwegian homes in 2008. Using data from life-cycle assessments, sales reports, and other studies, they calculated the greenhouse emissions of the devices, considering manufacture, use, and disposal.

They found that freezers and refrigerators accounted for the most emissions: the equivalent of about 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per household in 2008. Televisions and computers ranked second and third, contributing about 1,300 and 1,100 pounds of greenhouse emissions, respectively.

Why do TVs and laptops generate so many greenhouse gases? The answer lies in the often-overlooked emissions produced during manufacturing. The researchers found that manufacturing a laptop generated nearly 40 times the emissions produced by using the laptop for a year (at least in Norway). And buying the latest, greatest gadgetry also makes an impact:

Hertwich says that the rapid turnover of electronics increases the importance of manufacturing’s emissions. Norwegian households purchase a washing machine only once every nine years, on average, but buy a computer every two years and a television every 3.5 years.

Read the rest.

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