Destroying our Environment

11. Why has 5G not been environmentally assessed?

Because impacts of digitalization are exempt from environmental assessment in EU law.

The Member States have the competence and duty to environmentally asses what is called a “project”.

The various activities of the environment are therefore subject to local impact assessments except for the exposure of the environment to the dangerous radiofrequency radiation and impacts of digitalization because they are not called a “project”. Also 5G deployment is officially not called a project.

The exclusion of the term “project” for the deployment in general of telecommunications infrastructure has apparently made it possible to roll out 5G networks in Europe without prior health and environmental impact assessments.

The Member States cannot fulfill their obligation to protect the environment against such exposure even though it is required of them by national law to ensure a healthy and safe environment for the people living there. In this way the local environmental laws are overruled and the industry can set up any kind of device no matter how harmful to the environment.


12. What about the Massive Electricity Consumption?

Far from being a solution to climate change, the ecological footprint of the digital economy would reach its peak with 5G.

5G is “an energy hog”. 5G is far from being a solution to climate change. On the contrary, the digital ecological footprint will reach its peak with 5G.

According to industry reports, energy consumption from wireless devices and networks will grow exponentially. Wireless energy consumption will grow by 160% until 2030 and 5G will increase global CO2 emissions by approximately 250 megatons.

According to The Shift Project: “The energy consumption of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is increasing by 9% every year. It is possible to limit this growth to 1.5% per year by moving to sober digital practices. The digital transition as it is currently implemented participates to global warming more than it helps preventing it. The need for action is therefore urgent.

The environmental footprint of digitalisation has grown enormously and will continue to grow. For example, there has been a sharp increase in the streaming of movies in high resolution. Ultra HD requires ten times more data than HD resolution and with more data, more energy is required.


13. What about the Enormous Waste of Raw Materials?

Every smartphone includes 1000+ substances…

… each with its own energy-intensive, toxic waste-emitting supply chain that is a threat to the environment.

In addition to the current 5G technology rollout with huge amounts of cables and antennas the introduction of billions of 5G-connected wireless devices (like household appliances, watches, clothes, nappies, blinds) into our daily lives will expand consumerism, technological obsolescence and electronic waste that is difficult to recycle.

The environmental costs of “upgrading” to a new device or a new program which often requires a new computer and new peripherals, each with embodied energy and toxins, are extremely high.

The OECD Report from 2018 Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060 recognizes the role of digitization in the exponential increase in extracted resources (rare earth minerals and metals). The report projects a doubling of global primary materials use between today and 2060. It would also increase water pollution and depletion, habitat destruction, deforestation, and droughts, impacts on flora/fauna and human health.


14. Why are the Resource and Energy Waste
not Considered?

Because wireless electronic devices are not included in the current Ecodesign Directive…

… which requires that manufacturers of energy-using products will, at the design stage, be obliged to reduce the energy consumption and other negative environmental impacts of products

The Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC sets requirements for the environment-related design of “energy-related products” (ErP) for 40 products, which do not include electronic devices which are used for digitalisation.

While the Directive’s primary aim is to reduce energy use, it is also aimed at taking other environmental factors into consideration: materials use, water use, polluting emissions, waste issues and recyclability.

The launch of 5G is expected to bring many new interconnected devices to the market, most of which will replace their predecessors. Thus, the cycle of buying new and disposing of old devices is being significantly boosted. Instead of reducing environmental impact and saving energy there would be a whole new industry building thousands of satellites, new generations of an exploding amount of antennas, electronic devices like hundreds of millions of mobile phones, tablets, even internet of underwater things and so on.


15. Does EU Classify Wireless as a Pollutant?

No. But insurance companies do.

The EU defines a pollutant as: “a substance or a group of substances that may be harmful to the environment or to human health on account of its properties and of its introduction into the environment”. And then it provides a list of 91 pollutants.

Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF), however, is not included in this list even though many scientists consider it a pollutant.

It is unacceptable that the EU does not classify RF EMF as a pollutant, while insurance companies, which do not want to insure against certain damages relating to pollutants, clearly define RF EMF as pollutants:

Pollutants mean: Any solid, liquid, gaseous, or thermal irritant or contaminant including smoke, vapor, soot, fumes, acid, alkalis, chemicals, artificially produced electric fields, magnetic field, electromagnetic field, sound waves, microwaves, and all artificially produced ionizing or non- ionizing radiation and waste. Waste includes materials to be recycled, reconditioned or reclaimed.” (AT&T Mobile Insurance)


16. How will 5G Impact Ecosystems?

Nobody knows, because the impact of 5G technology on living ecosystems is not monitored.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies strongly indicate that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMF) cause biological effects at levels far below current limit values.

Levels of exposure to RF EMF have increased from extremely low natural levels already by about 1018 times.

Without monitoring we face the following problems:

  • 5G deployment will contravene current environmental laws (Habitat- and Bird- directive) in the EU regulations and the Bern- and Bonn- conventions protecting natural habitat and migrating species.
  • Biodiversity will continue declining. More than 75% decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas can only be caused by pollutants other than those which already have been examined.
  • Insects live in natural electromagnetic fields, and if these are super exposed by the artificial cell phone fields it will have serious consequences. Study results show that the size of the bee colonies, the performance of the worker bees, the pollen input, the honey production, the ability to orientate suffer and the immune defense of the bees is weakened under the influence of mobile phones.


17. What is the Danger of Satellites?

There is no assessment of space debris and rocket fumes.

The Low Earth Orbit satellites have a short lifespan, after 5 years they must be deorbitized and burn in the atmosphere where they damage the ozone layer during combustion.

The satellites also have a certain failure rate. A roughly 2.5% failure rate isn’t too bad in this industry, but if that number holds for SpaceX’s Starlink fleet, it may lead to more than 1,000 dead satellites.

There are currently about 7,000 tons of space debris in orbits near the Earth (whereas there are additional 3,000 tons of active spacecrafts).

ASTRIAGraph, a framework that enables monitoring, assessment, and verification of space-actor-behavior has developed an interactive map of the objects around the Earth where you can display the debris.


Astronomers are complaining about light and radio pollution.

The number of artificial objects in Earth’ orbit is already severely limiting astronomical observations not only in the optical but also in the radio spectrum. In a few years, the amount of unwanted light scattered in the atmosphere could increase the overall brightness of the night sky by more than 10% above the natural level.

The brightness of satellites is very high for sensitive astronomical instruments. The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has published simulation of the impact of satellites on optical instruments.

Last but not least, they disrupt the natural view of the night sky, which is humanity’s natural and cultural heritage of utmost importance.


There is no environmental assessment of radiofrequency radiation.

Satellites are emitting radiation in the radiofrequency spectrum (3-30 GHz). See more in our EU blog article.

On the ground level, the radiation from satellites will be rather low, but also very low radiation has biological effects on living organisms. And with such extensive coverage of satellites, there will no longer be places on Earth without man-made radiation in radio spectrum.

Although the International Telecommunication Union manages wireless frequencies, there is no international body with authority to regulate satellite launches. The scientists in SATCON1 Report are worried about the 100,000 or more LEOsats proposed by many companies and many governments to be deployed.


18. Orbital Space – a Resource for Free Exploitation?

By law the orbital space is not considered as part of the environment, for that reason there are no limitations.

Space is viewed at as a natural resource, “the new gold”, to be exploited to the limit as humanity has done with other resources, with disastrous consequences for environment. European space activities are not assessed for their environmental impacts although the human activities in outer space have a huge impact on the environment on Earth and pose great threats as showed in our EU blog article.

In 2020, the UK government called for the United Nations to set up international discussions to agree on how countries should operate responsibly in space and in 2021, the new head of the European Space Agency has urged European leaders to intervene and co-ordinate to prevent SpaceX CEO Elon Musk making the space economy his personal playground.

Now, the European Space Policy gives little consideration to the environmental impacts of space activities. Space is viewed at as just another natural resource for free exploitation in a “race” against other geostrategical and economic interests.


protect environment
Foto: [M]: Hedi Xandt; SABarton / Getty Images / DER SPIEGEL
© 2024 Europeans for safe connections.