What's the carbon footprint of reading Passport?

The internet is generally seen as a "green" technology -- emails can cut down on paper waste, teleconferencing can save on CO2 emitted by flying, and smart grids can help reduce overall energy consumption. But, according to the Guardian's series on carbon footprints, the internet releases about 300 million tons of CO2 each year -- as much as all the coal, oil, and gas used for energy in Turkey and Poland.

The British newspaper acknowledges that carbon footprints are, in general, tough to calculate. However, it arrived at this rough estimate by accounting for the power used up by data centers ("buildings packed top to bottom with servers full of the web pages, databases, online applications and downloadable files that make the modern online experience possible") and personal computing devices. Data centers are one of the less visible factors in understanding the global carbon trail left by our emails, blog trolling, and facebooking, but they are quite significant. A Harvard physicist last year estimated that just two Google searches generate about 14 grams of CO2--or enough to bring a kettle to boil.

A recent UK study determined that in 2005, consumer and commercial information and communication technology (ICT) accounted for about 1.2 percent of fossil fuel emissions. The report predicts that ICT's footprint could climb by 60 percent by 2030.

The Guardian feature highlights some other carbon footprints. Among them:

The Iraq War: 250-600 million tons of CO2 since 2003

The World Cup: 2.8 million tons of CO2 ("more than a billion cheeseburgers")

The 2009 Australian bushfires: 165 million tons of CO2

A banana: 80g CO2 each


How about that LRA strategy?

A horrifying report from Human Rights Watch today catalogues a recent campaign by the once-Ugandan now-regional rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) that has kidnapped nearly 700 and left 225 dead in the Central African Republic. The kidnap victims were,  it's believed, mostly children -- taken to fill out the ranks of a shrinking LRA. Many of the dead were killed by "crushing their skulls with clubs."

It's clear that age has not mellowed this quarter-century-old rebel group.

Unfortunately, the LRA's escapades into the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and still in Northern Uganda are not news. A study released by University of California, Berkeley, researchers earlier this month offered revelations of equally depressing measure about the humanitarian conditions in the Central African Republic, a country where people are dying off at a rate five times faster than in the rest of Africa. So great is the particular havoc wrought by the LRA of late, the Barack Obama administration signed a bill that legally mandates the United States to have a strategy to "eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the Lord's Resistance Army."

So how about that strategy now? It's still in the planning stages, but the law itself offers some hint of what it could look like -- probably a hybrid of diplomacy in the region, humanitarian assistance on the ground, additional support and funding for the United Nations and its various operations, and perhaps military aid of the sort that the United States is already providing to Uganda. They would do well to consider training local civil police who might be able to offer some semblance of government security in regions of the Central African Republic and Congo that rarely see much benefit from the state.

The Central African Republic has had little help combating the LRA, and it's about to have even less. A U.N. peacekeeping mission in the north of the country, which has largely kept rebel groups there at bay, will pull out of the country soon. Any local response to crisis will likely be directly there, as the rebels in the north pose a far greater challenge to the government than the LRA (which is more interested in kidnapping and killing than actually running the show.) All around bad new for a Friday the 13th.