human activity and the destruction of the planet

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The Carbon Footprint of Smartphones

A report in March 2018 from Fastcodesign suggests that smartphones are far from being carbon-neutral devices.  Analysis has shown that buying a new smartphone consumes as much energy as continuing to use one’s old smartphone for another 10 years.  The report suggests that it is better to buy a new battery than to upgrade.


Researchers at McMaster University analysed the carbon impact of the whole ICT industry for the period 2010-2020. This included PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and servers.   They found that the overall environmental impact of technology from 2007 has increased for 1% to the 14% predicted for 2040.

Smartphones have a particularly strong effect. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.

An independent study of Apple iPhones concluded that the iPhone 6s created 57% more CO2 than the iPhone 4s, even though Apple claim that their more recent iPhones are environmentally friendly.  See:

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (August 2015), Vol. 20, 8, 1181-1196.  Authors Suckling and Lee.

Another independent study found that the iPhone 6s creates 57% more CO2 than the iPhone 4s.  The article suggests that even keeping a smartphone for three years, rather than two, can have a considerable impact on a person’s carbon footprint.  It’s down to the need for mining the rare minerals needed to make a new phone.  This sounds like a similar situation to that I described in another post of this website, in which the mining of cobalt (in Africa) for a new electric car can create more environmental damage that continuing to drive an old petrol-driven car.  It’s greener to keep an old phone than upgrade to a new one.

The full report by Mark Wilson can be found at:



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Ancient African baobab trees are dying

In a report on the BBC website:, international scientists have discovered that many of the oldest baobab trees on the African continent are dying.  Most of the oldest and largest African trees have died in the last 12 years.


The trees have a characteristic shape, as they store water in their trunks.

Baobabs store water in the trunk (up to 120,000 litres or 32,000 US gallons) to endure harsh drought conditions.[12] All occur in seasonally arid areas, and are deciduous, shedding their leaves during the dry season. Across Africa, the oldest and largest baobabs began to die in the early 21st century, likely from a combination of drought and rising temperatures.[5] The trees appear to become parched, then become dehydrated and unable to support their massive trunks.[6]

Baobabs are important as nest sites for birds, in particular the mottled spinetail and four species of weaver.

It is suspected that the death of the trees is due to climate change.  The trees that have died or are dying are found in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. They are all between 1,000 and more than 2,500 years old.


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Research shows humans insignificant globally in terms of numbers but are responsible for destroying 83% of wild mammals

This research, published in the Proceedings  of the National Academy of Sciences by Prof Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, has been reported in The Guardian (21st May 2018).


Image with thanks to

According to Milo, the 7.6 billion people on earth represent just 0.01% of all life forms, yet have caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of all plants. The data was derived by calculating the total biomass of each group.  Thus,

All life on earth is made up of:

82% Plants; 13% Bacteria and 5% of everything else (including the 0.01% of humans).

86% of life is found on land and 1% in the oceans.  Of all the mammals on earth, 96% are livestock and humans (60% livestock, 36% humans, 4% wild mammals).  Even more surprising is that 70% of birds on the planet are poultry and 30% wild birds.  Further statistics and graphics are available in The Guardian.

The original article can be found at:

The article argues that humans have been extremely efficient in utilising the resources available on the planet.  However, I would not describe this as efficient, if it has led to the loss of much of the diverse life on the planet. Humans have plundered the planet but not sustainably.

Another article from The Mammal Society (, states that almost one in five British mammals face a high risk of extinction.  These include:

the red squirrel; the wildcat; the grey long-eared bat, the hedgehog and the water vole.



Another article in The Guardian, cites Chris Packham (a BBC Springwatch presenter) as having warned of ‘an ecological apocalypse’ in Britain and that Britain is becoming “a green and unpleasant land”.

Packham is also reported to have said: “We need a peaceful public uprising. We need people to say we’ve had enough. We do that every time there’s a terror attack. We need a similar movement for nature. We need people to stand up and say we want action now. We have the ability to fix our countryside.”

He is urging people to join him next month on a10-day “bioblitz”, visiting road verges, farmland, parks, allotments and community nature reserves across the country to record what wildlife remains – from butterflies to bryophytes, linnets to lichens.

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Carbon Brief provides a map of the world’s coal powered plants

In an outstanding analysis of current use of coal as a source of power, Carbon Brief, has introduced a map showing where the coal powered plants are.

They are remarkably absent from most of the continent of Africa, apart from South Africa, but are still very present in other parts of the world, most being present in the northern hemisphere.

According to Carbon Brief , since 2000, the world has doubled its coal-fired power capacity to 2,000 gigawatts (GW) after explosive growth in China and India. Alarmingly, another 200GW is being built and 450GW is planned.

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The Pope addresses the oil majors in a Vatican climate conference

Last week the Pope held a two-day conference at the Vatican on climate change, to which he invited representatives of the oil majors: Exxon Mobil, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Equinor and Pemex.


In his address he stated:

“Climate change is a challenge of “epochal proportions” and that the world must convert to clean fuel.” He went on to say, “Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation.”  He also condemned climate change sceptics and blamed human selfishness for global warming.  He added that the world needs to come up with sources of energy that combat pollution, eliminates poverty and promotes social justice.



The text of his speech can be found at:

Whilst he is to be applauded for raising the profile of climate change issues, none of the reports on this conference that I have found, give any indication of what responses were made by the oil giants to his message.

Analysts estimate that at least two thirds of coal, oil and gas reserves need to stay in the ground to keep global warming below 2 degrees Centigrade.