Not So Green!

5G is being sold as a green technology – something which will benefit the environment and solve many pressing issues. This is why some environmental movements and political parties are misguidedly in favour of it. This short review paints a different picture and is also available as a downloadable leaflet.

How Green is 5G?

  • 5G is the latest generation of mobile technology which will enable the Internet of Things, where multiple objects and devices will be able to communicate with each other.
  • 5G means blanketing the earth with untested pulsed radio frequencies using both low and high frequencies in a way that has never been safety-tested.
  • Thousands of peer reviewed scientific studies show that the current radio frequencies used by 2G, 3G and 4G pose risks to humans, animals and the environment.
  • UK safety standards are far less stringent than most other countries. They are based on ICNIRP guidelines which recognise only thermal rather than biological effects.
  • There are no exposure standards to protect plants and animals.

“…activating a 5G-network, as it is currently described, would be in contravention of current human and environmental laws enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, EU regulations, and the Bern- and Bonn-conventions”. Danish Legal Opinion, May 2019.


Why ‘smart’ wireless isn’t smart

Faced with mounting ecological concerns, we must be careful not to fall for ‘solutions’ that are driven by profit and increase pollution,  Genetically Modified Organisms and  large-scale biofuel production are two examples already causing concern. The health and environmental risks of wireless technology are less well-known, despite the thousands of scientific studies, dating back to WW2, showing harm. Smart meters, smart motorways, smart cities and smart farming, are being sold to us as the new ‘green’ and used to justify the global roll-out of 5G.

Although digital technologies have a part to play in energy efficiency, their own energy footprint, including production and usage is increasing by 9% a year.1.  5G encourages energy intensive practices such as the production of multiple devices with planned obsolescence, video streaming and faster downloads. Much that is promised could be achieved more reliably and effectively by locally owned wired networks, with far less cost to the earth.2


2. Connected Communities – Wired Networks for Crossing the Digital Divide


Global exposure

The telecommunication industry’s plan for 5G is to have microwave coverage of the entire earth, billions of times greater than the earth’s natural background radiation. It will involve thousands of satellites in space as well as millions of earth-based antennae. Many scientists are questioning the wisdom of interfering with the earth’s electrical and magnetic fields, which have played a foundational role in the emergence of life and the evolution of species. These natural energy fields are used for navigation and orientation as well as controlling circadian rhythms and many other biological patterns. A major concern is that “ The placement of tens of thousands of satellites directly in both the ionosphere and magnetosphere, emitting modulated signals at millions of watts and millions of frequencies, is likely to alter our electromagnetic environment beyond our ability to adapt.”5G Space Appeal


Health and Wildlife

In light of the shocking decline in biodiversity, in which wireless radiation may have already played a significant part, can we risk such an unprecedented experiment on life on earth without sufficient scientific testing or precautionary measures?

Human Health: Microwave frequencies have been demonstrated to cause cancer, immune dysfunction, neurological disorders and lower sperm count.  Where 5G has been switched on, people are reporting symptoms such as severe headaches, ringing in the ears, nosebleeds and disturbed sleep patterns  Increasing numbers of people are suffering from electromagnetic sensitivity (ES). Children are particularly at risk as they absorb more radiation than adults.

Birds and Bees:  According to The Lancet, “the reported global reduction in bees and other insects is plausibly linked to the increased radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in the environment.”   Insects will be particularly vulnerable to 5G frequencies above 6 GHz. There is already a patent using millimetre waves as an insecticide.  Studies on birds exposed to electromagnetic radiation show aggressive behaviour, impaired reproduction and interference with migration.

Plants: Studies on plant populations exposed to different forms of electrosmog show reduced growth, increased infections and other physiological effects. Plants may also respond to electromagnetic stress by producing terpenes which make them highly flammable, increasing the spread of wildfires. Green leaves block the shorter millimetre waves used in 5G and trees in the way of these radiation pathways may be felled.

Agriculture: 5G empowered ‘Agri tech’ not only encourages industrial farming but further distances the relationship between humans and nature. Farmers will rarely leave their computer screens, only responding to livestock when prompted by sensors. All farm machinery is expected to be autonomous. Trials are currently taking place in Somerset and Shropshire. (5G Rural First – Agritech)

Bacteria: Bacteria exposed to electromagnetic radiation are proven to be more drug resistant, making us more vulnerable to antibiotic failure.


The Environment

Weather prediction: There is concern that auctioning the 24 GHz bandwidth for 5G satellites will interfere with NOAA’s ability to accurately predict extreme weather events and stop the work of their polar orbiting satellite that is used for climate monitoring.

Energy Use:  5G and the Internet of Things will exacerbate the digital overconsumption trend in high income countries. The share of digital technologies in global greenhouse emissions reached 3.7% in 2018 (surpassing aviation). This is expected to rise to 8% by 2025 and consume 20% of global electricity2.

Resource Use and Pollution: The increase in digitalisation requires the mining of rare metals also needed for low carbon technology. This  is resulting in violence, slavery and the abuse of indigenous people’s rights. It also creates large amounts of  hazardous waste. Minerals are becoming the “new oil” of the global economy. Satellites create a persistent layer of black carbon, affecting temperature and ozone, and add to space debris.


Additional Resources

The Invisible, and Growing Ecological Footprint of Digital Technology (7.1.20)