It turns out that streaming online pornography is a significant source of emissions — but not the kind you’re probably thinking.
A French think tank called The Shift Project has found that the transmission and viewing of videos online produces about 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and a full third of that content is porn. Online streaming services like Netflix comprise another third of the content studied.
As pointed out by New Scientist, at nearly 1 percent of the global total, watching porn generates about the same amount of CO2 emitted by countries like Belgium, Bangladesh and Nigeria.
Previously, The Shift Project “estimated that digital technologies produce 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and that this figure could soar to 8 per cent by 2025.”
In order to determine how much of that is due to online video watching, the researchers used 2018 data from Cisco and Sandvine to figure out global video internet traffic and then estimated how much electricity is required to support the transmission and viewing of the videos.
The estimate of CO2 emissions was determined by applying “global average figures for carbon emissions from electricity generation.”
In an effort to reduce emissions related to viewing videos online, the report’s authors suggested nixing the autoplay feature many platforms use and not transmitting in high definition when it isn’t absolutely necessary.
Chris Preist of the University of Bristol, UK, who studies the sustainability of technology, had some likely unwelcome news for tech nerds everywhere:
“This once again demonstrates the need for the designers of digital services to think carefully about the overall impact of the services they provide,” he said. “For individuals, upgrading our devices less often, owning less devices, and not demanding mobile high quality internet connection everywhere are probably the most important actions we can take.”