The telecommunications industry has been attempting to boost its popularity in recent years, mainly for its innumerable digital possibilities; however, there is a rising concern that 5G could be devastating to the environment. At this point, the actual ecological cost of 5G is yet to be ascertained correctly; one clear fact remains that 5G will be far more efficient than the current 4G network, while at the same time more energy-intensive too.
Projected as the next big revolution in the telecommunication sector, 5G offers far more possibilities in terms of network penetration, performance, and speed. Despite its potential benefits, people fear that the promising new technology could be detrimental to the environment.
Why such concerns, and what possible negative impact does 5G have on the environment? In this post, we will explore the ups and downs of 5G technology and whether it’s harmful to the environment or not.
Table of Contents
What is 5G?
5G denotes the fifth-generation wireless network technology that is all set to replace the current 4G technology. At present, 5G is already functional in a few countries around the globe, including South Korea and China.
Many more countries are rapidly developing their 5G infrastructure and are in the process of rolling it out as soon as possible.
5G technology is developed more in line with more advanced digital activities, like the Internet of Things (IoT), etc. It will likely provide broader coverage, better speed, and enhanced storage capacities.
Is 5G Really Harmful to The Environment?
According to 180 scientists and doctors from 36 countries (EU 5G Appeal), there are undoubtedly viable concerns regarding the 5G technology.
Although 5G’s short wavelength and range make it non-ionizing, it is still possible to pose a risk to the environment and human health. Most importantly, 5G will increase the amount of electromagnetic radiation in the atmosphere, leading to an increased risk for disease and a high risk of cancer.
In response, the involved scientists are urging the EU to adopt the Council of Europe Resolution 1815, which calls for an independent task force to evaluate the impact of cell phone radiation on health.
The concerns against 5G are further strengthened by the December 2020 report from the High Council for The Climate. According to the report, deployment of 5G could potentially add around 2.7 Mt eqCO2 and 6.7 Mt eqCO2 by the year 2030 to the digital carbon footprint. Hence 5G could be a significant contributor to global warming.
Impact of 5G on Health and Environment
While 5G radiation does not have the potential to cause cancer, scientists are concerned about the health effects of this technology on humans.
The deployment of 5G will require the scraping of a massive number of smartphones incapable of supporting the new technology. This will create massive amounts of e-waste, which may affect ecosystems. Furthermore, researchers have raised concerns that the frequency of 5G is high enough to disrupt the human body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate sleep and reproduction.
A study by the Punjab University found that sparrows exposed to cell tower radiation for five to thirty minutes produced disfigured eggs. Another study in Spain showed that electromagnetic radiation from cell towers interfered with birds’ breeding and nesting habits.
Moreover, the new network would also require more energy than the current network. This means that the latest technology will be more energy-intensive than the existing one. Therefore, the environmental impacts could be more severe than those present now.
Is 5G harmful to Animals?
The effect of 5G technology on animal health is still not completely understood, but some scientists believe it is a significant threat. While there has not been any direct evidence to suggest that the 5G technology causes harm to animals, there have been several studies showing the effects of high-frequency electromagnetic waves.
The high-frequency electromagnetic waves emitted by the 5G network could be harmful to animals and birds. Researchers are worried that the radiation from mobile phones will alter their nervous systems and body temperatures. While it’s unclear whether these waves will harm animals, researchers are not ruling out a potential impact on ecosystems.
Scientists warn that 5G technology will likely affect various animals, including birds, amphibians, and insects. It is currently unclear whether it will have a significant effect on animal life; however, prolonged exposure to the high-frequency waves poses a risk of negative impacts.
Besides, the development of this new communication network will result in a considerable increase in energy consumption, which will indeed contribute to global warming. The deployment of the latest 5G will produce a lot of waste and deplete valuable resources. As such, the impact on animals and ecosystems will be profound. Recent studies have also found that exposure to millimeter waves will have a detrimental effect on bees and birds.
Why is 5G Bad for the Environment?
Many governments and wireless companies have sought to reassure the public that 5G radiation is safe. Even the Federal Communication Commission has confirmed that the radio frequency radiation (RFR) exposure limits specified in the late 1990s also apply to 5G technology; however, many issues remain.
According to the opponents of 5G, even deploying new network infrastructure could be detrimental to the environment. This high-performance network equipment will require the use of state-of-the-art materials. The manufacturing step will involve extracting a massive amount of minerals and depleting non-renewable resources.
All these activities will not only pollute water but also destroy the land. Finally, the process involved will also release a massive amount of harmful gasses that will pollute the air and therefore aggravate global warming.
In addition to that, the whole 5G infrastructure will guzzle down three times more energy than the present 4G network. The energy consumption of mobile operators could multiply by 2.5 to 3 in the next five years. Generating all the extra energy needed will surely put a heavy toll on the environment. Although, these are still just concerns and require further investigation.
There is a general lack of solid research around the concerns. While the European Union (EU) has funded research on electromagnetic radiation, they have not funded any studies that consider the possible impact of 5G on health. The latest research is not conclusive. Further study is needed to evaluate the environmental impact of 5G.
The ill-effects of 5G are often overlooked; while many people are excited by the prospect of a 5G network, some are concerned about its effects on the environment. Although the new technology will allow users to communicate more conveniently and efficiently, it will also increase the amount of radiation in the environment.
The proliferation of 5G-enabled devices will require huge amounts of energy. It will cause more pollution than other technologies. Moreover, the energy requirements associated with this technology will also increase.
According to Joel Moskowitz, a researcher in the School of Public Health and director of the Center for Family and Community Health at UC Berkeley – ” research has shown significant adverse biologic and health effects — including brain cancer — associated with the use of cellphones and other wireless devices. And now, he said, with the fifth generation of cellular technology, known as 5G, there is an even bigger reason for concern.”