Ever imagined that you’d actually be polluting the earth more by just watching Netflix even if you don’t drive a car? Well, watching Netflix for 30 minutes a day by streaming content to your high definition TV is the equivalent of releasing about 1.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. That’s like driving a car for about 6.8 kilometers, even if you don’t have a car. And CO2 contributes to global warming – a massive environmental problem that countries around the world are trying to reduce by reducing tail pipe emissions of cars and other vehicles among other such measures.
Stunned? Don’t be. Modern day content beamed on video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime consumes huge amounts of data. And every time you stream such data, you’re downloading massive internet files running into many gigabytes of data. This puts pressure on servers that run on electricity, and indirectly causes the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere. Most countries including India still rely on heavily polluting thermal power plants for electricity generations, plants that run on coal – a cheap by highly polluting fuel.
Gary Cook of Greenpeace had this to say about the massive energy costs associated with streaming video content,
Digital videos come in very large file sizes and (are) getting bigger with each new generation of higher definition video. More data equals more energy needed to maintain a system that is ready to stream this video to your device at a moment’s notice. Much of the energy needed for streaming services is consumed by the data centre, which delivers data to your computer or device. The changing screen size and related shift to digital video technology has set the stage for higher definition and thus larger file sizes that we are streaming.
So, the next time millennial climate activists tell you to stop driving your car to save the planet, you can also ask them to stop watching Netflix and similar content from other video streaming platforms to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that they’d indirectly be contributing to.
Is there an easier way to fix this rather than not driving cars/not watching Netflix?
Oh yes, there is. If all electric cars were to run on electricity generated from clean (renewable) sources of energy, it would result in much lower CO2 emissions. The same applies to data centers that beam out vast quantities of data to devices across the globe. The key here is to shift to renewable energy from sources such as the sun, wind and water, etc.