Binge-watching, a massive CO2 generator

Binge-watching, a massive CO2 generator
6 February 2020 Body Délice
Binge watching - a massive CO2 generator

Binge-watching : a widely spread societal trend 

Let’s face the truth, since we have such an easy access to digital technologies, our modern society is completely addicted to it!

And this revolution happened so fast…
I’m personally from the generation which witnessed the arrival of internet, and when you think about that, it wasn’t so long ago (I’m not that old!).
But it does feel weird to think that younger generations don’t quite understand how works rotary dial telephone; how to read a map instead of following the GPS; or that we recorded music on the radio with tapes. And now I realize I watched “The Lion King” on a video cassette! Oh my, I am old… lol

Anyway, what I mean is that our culture towards digital technologies changed fast and with that, our habits radically transformed. Now, we are more and more often in front of our TV waiting for the new show on HBO, or the new episodes of our favorite program on Netflix…

The thing is that many don’t realize that this binge-watching has a real environmental impact.

When watching Netflix contributes more to global warming than driving a car…

The French think tank “The Shift Project” estimates that digital technologies produce globally 4% of greenhouse gas emission which represent 306 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2).

On these 306 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 80% are directly linked to online streaming with the following breakdown:

  • 34% corresponding to 102 million tonnes, are directly linked to online streaming (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu…),
  • 27% to online pornography,
  • 25% to “Tube” platforms (YouTube & Dailymotion)
  • 18% are online video on social medias like Instagram, Facebook…

The remaining 20% of data flow generating CO2 concern emails, websites, instant messaging, data storage…

By 2025, experts estimate that digital technologies will contribute up to 8% of the global greenhouse gas emission.

I was so shocked with these figures that I read many things on the topic and I fall on an interview from one of the expert who wrote the Shift Project report.

Basically, if you watch 70 minutes a day of online video streaming, at the end of the year, you would have contributed to 1.3 tonne of carbon dioxide, which is a bit less than a Paris – New York flight!

But why? 

Simply because video consume more data than text, audio or picture.

To give you an example, 10 hours of a high definition video represent more data than the entire English articles on Wikipedia (text format).

Now you get it! It a huge amount of data.

Watching an online video seems as simple as listening to the radio, but the truth is that behind that, you have a whole infrastructure with servers, cables, computers… and it keeps growing because through that, new consumption behaviors are created. With the 4G, you can now watch Netflix on your phone in the bus. Tomorrow with the 5G, you’ll be able to play an online video game on your phone…!

Any solution?

One could be the “digital sobriety” suggested by the Shift Project.
Behind this expression, the idea is not to use less digital, but to use it better! We are invited to question our consumption behaviors towards digital objects and services in order to reduce the impact of these digital technologies.

Do we need to buy the most powerful equipment possible? Do we need to spend our evenings watching online streaming videos? Do we need to change our smartphone each time a new one is released? Do we need 5G? …

In the end, it’s not a question of being “for” or “against” online video streaming… But as said the Shift Project, we have to face the following challenge:

“How do we avoid a use deemed precious from being impaired by the excessive consumption of another use deemed less essential?”

Our societies keep evolving and if we consider our new consumption behaviors, reducing the environmental impact of online videos won’t be possible without regulations.

People need to get aware of the environmental impact of their simple life habits. 

Governments need to create regulations on the use and size of online videos. 

Big companies need to really integrate green computing, and not just as a green washing marketing campaigns.



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