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Online Video Consumes More Energy Than Traditional Printing Press

Online video services like Netflix and YouTube emerge as climate laggards in Greenpeace’s latest Clicking Clean report, running data centres that gobble more fossil-fired electricity than traditional printing presses.

“Consumers bought nearly 100 million Internet-connected TVs in 2014, and the steady increase of video-enabled mobile devices has dramatically changed how and where we watch TV and movies,” Greenpeace reports [1]. “YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and other video streaming services that have suddenly become a regular staple in our daily lives already make up more than 60% of consumer internet traffic, and that number is expected to grow to 76% by 2018.”

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The result, Grist writes, is that “those cat videos, TED talks, and Netflix original series you watch to unwind might be slowly killing the planet.” While data centres account for a small percentage of the world’s greenhouse gas production, their emissions are growing 13% per year. “Within two years, information technology in general, including manufacturing servers and other gear, is expected to account for between seven and 12% of all electrical use, according the report.”

Most major consumer Internet companies “are now working towards using nothing but renewables,” Finley writes, but Amazon has taken longer to commit [3]—adding to the footprint of services like Netflix that run on Amazon.

“Even though streaming can offset some emissions, such as the manufacture and delivery of DVDs or BluRay disks, the convenience of streaming is leading us to consume more content,” e adds. “Instead of buying a few videos and watching them again and again, we’re now binge-watching entire seasons of shows in a sitting, which ends up creating a bigger carbon footprint overall.”