Binging on Netflix could be worse for the environment than the drive to the store to buy a DVD. That’s according to French think tank The Shift Project.
It’s claimed that two hours watching Netflix puts you in a chain of emissions generation equivalent to driving over 15 miles. That’s on average – actual person-by-person figures must depend on the specific car.
Over the course of 2019, it’s said that online streaming services like Netflix collectively generated emissions equivalent to that of Spain. The Shift Project expects that to double, too. All in, around 34 percent of online traffic can be attributed to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and more.
At present, digital technologies – ranging from data centres to you charging your phone – represent four percent of worldwide carbon emissions. That’s more than civil air transport. However, the output increases by eight percent every year.
Estimates from experts at Huawei Technologies suggest that digital technologies could account for 20 percent of the world’s electricity use by 2030.
How is an hour of Netflix more damaging than an eight-mile drive?
The problem is that services like Netflix have enormous libraries of content that have to be hosted somewhere. Droves of data banks and servers consume energy. On top of simply keeping them powered up, a massive amount of energy is consumed keeping them cool. And they’re running 24/7, 365 days a year.
“How we power our digital infrastructure is rapidly becoming critical to whether we will be able to arrest climate change in time,” says Gary Cook, IT sector analyst at Greenpeace.