Porno Power

From our Swindon Correspondent:

Streaming online pornography produces the same amount of carbondioxide as Belgium, according to a new report by French think tank The Shift Project.

Researchers found that overall online videos emit 300 million tonnes of carbon each year and a third of this comes from streaming videos with pornographic content.

The research, which was lead by engineer Maxime Efoui-Hess who specialises in computer modelling, found that the energy consumption of digital technologies is increasing by nine per cent a year. Sixty per cent of world data flows come from online video.

First of all, I suspect, from reading their report, that they have the numbers wrong as they’re comparing views without comparing resolution. Netflix frequently stream at resolutions like 1080p, while pornography mostly streams at 720p or 480p, and that makes a considerable difference in terms of bandwidth and processing (and therefore power). 720p is around half the bandwidth of 1080p.
Whether the emissions as a percentage total are right, I don’t know.

The digital sectors needs to be more heavily scrutinised in light of urgent need to reduce global emissions, researchers say. They write: “The direct and indirect environmental impacts (“rebound effects”) linked to the uses of digital technologies are both unsustainable and increasingly rapid.”

And replaced with what? If some bloke drives to the paper shop to rent a porno (and then drives to the paper shop to return it), what’s the energy use for that? Well, at least 150g of CO2 per mile.
Netflix have written about their energy use:-


In 2014, Netflix infrastructure generated only 0.5g of CO2e emissions for each hour of streaming. The average human breathing emits about 40g/hour, nearly 100x as much. Sitting still while watching Netflix probably saves more CO2 than Netflix burns.

Now, there’s other costs, like the ISP and the modem at the other end, but that’s not going to be dissimilar. And you can’t include the TV or monitor because this assumes people will watch TV instead. And remember, TV energy use considerably dropped when LCDs came along.
None of this is to say that digital is perfect, but it’s a better thing than the analogue options, even if you consume a lot more of it because the efficiency is so much greater. It’s why even talk about electric and hybrid cars ignores the massive energy saving, which is doing things without going somewhere.
Yes, a Skype call to a client uses energy, but it’s in a whole different league of energy use to getting in a car to see them. It’s hundreds, thousands times more efficient. If you’re worried about CO2, don’t even think too much about digital use, focus on how to use the car less.

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Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

While watching a TV proggie about an eco-family of seven trying to “live green” the only think I could think was “one child equals seventeen-umpty-million air liners!!!!!”

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

It’s in New ‘Scientist’ and from a French think tank, so that’s two strikes against it. I call bullshit. How much additional power does a server or router use if it’s handling an extra gigabit stream? Anyway, we know the answer to CO2 from electricity generation – it’s called nukes.

Tristram Fuller
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Tristram Fuller

Agree with comments. Generally the ‘Climate change fanatics’ concentrate in the wrong area.

As an aside and because I don’t seem to be able to contact you any other way (other than write – your form on your contact contact page doesn’t work) and I cannot find your email address – my newsletter subscription from yourselves has stopped working – I have tried different email addresses with no success. What changed ?

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Existence requires carbon as the building block of life and oxygen as the power behind its’ use. It is so blatantly obvious that every activity, animal,vegetable or mineral involves these two elements; axiomatically producing and watching movies, blue or otherwise, has an impact, equally so does The Independent when reporting about Maxime Efoui-Hess’s ludicrous research or indeed publishing any of its’ other comical output. As mentioned before, termites emit 1000% more of the life sustaining gas than humans do, and they don’t even watch porno. The only interesting issue that the research highlights is that a lot of people watch… Read more »

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

While I agree, I must point out that termites don’t dig up coal and burn it. All the methane they emit* is from vegetation that extracted the carbon from the atmosphere by photosynthesis. But the same is true of farm animals, yet they’re a huge problem, apparently.

* Actually from bacteria in their guts, very similar to those inside cows – the only living creatures that can truly digest cellulose.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

True, but coal is from trees, which also extracted carbon from the atmosphere.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

The carbon captured into coal over hundreds of millions of years has been released over a few centuries.

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Also true, and thank goodness for that, all those life giving elements being released from dangerously high levels of sequestration.

BarksintheCountry
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BarksintheCountry

Ok, but as it turns out we here are not “worried about CO2”. Thanks for the heads up just the same.