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Everyday Environmentalist

Fight Climate Change: Leave Your Computer On

"If you have to leave your computer on, here's a way you can make up for it."

Dave Connell, marketing manager, The Nature Conservancy

By Dave Connell

We all know that turning off your computer when it’s not in use is a smart way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help fight against the effects of climate change.

In fact, if you leave your computer on 24 hours a day, it could be responsible for releasing up to 1,500 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. The flying-toaster screen saver is cool…but is it that cool?

But if you have to leave your computer on, here's a way you can make up for it: By joining a distributed computing network that models the effects of climate change.

Distributed computing networks harness the unused power of thousands of personal computers to perform complicated tasks.

For instance, is a distributed network run by Oxford University and other partners that helps climate scientists run climate models on networked computers when those computers are on, but are not running at full capacity.

Once you join the network, you will be asked to download a climate model from the website. It will then run automatically in the background whenever your computer is switched on. When the climate model is finished running, the results are automatically sent back to the site over the Internet for analysis.

Users are invited to watch the climate model process if they like, and are provided with a summary of the model’s results through Or you could simply let the model run and never think about it again.

Either way, “always on” computer geeks can now contribute to climate change solutions and keep their flying toasters.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not represent those of The Nature Conservancy. 

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