Consumer-used equipment is responsible for over 50% of carbon dioxide emissions.
According to a new independent study released by Carbon Trust researchers and Netflix, the average carbon footprint of someone watching an hour of streaming video content in Europe is approximately 55 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (gCO2e).
This is the equivalent of using four bags of popcorn in the microwave or using an electric kettle three times in the UK.
The new research significantly undercuts previous estimates, calculating 3200 gCO2e per hour of streaming, which is the equivalent of popping 200 bags of popcorn in the microwave.
The calculation is not simple, as it must take into account the consumption of data storage centers, including the Internet-carrying infrastructure in the consumer’s home, in addition to the electricity to turn on the TV and other devices.
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The new study was based on research conducted at the University of Bristol in the UK.
It took researchers ten years to develop a tool to calculate the carbon footprint of streaming, using the most modern scientific protocols to measure emissions.
The research also pointed out that adjusting the image resolution to 4K, for example, produced very little difference in CO2 emissions, ranging from just 1 gCO2e/hour to just 1 gCO2e/hour.
The explanation is that the Internet is “always on”, so the change in resolution is almost irrelevant to carbon dioxide emissions.
Another point raised by the study is that despite the increase in Internet usage in recent years, energy consumption has been declining over time.
This is because providers of Internet, electricity and data centers are constantly swapping out equipment for more efficient versions, which can meet greater demand without necessarily increasing energy consumption.
In addition, the device used by the consumer (TV, computer, smartphone or tablet) is responsible for over 50% of the carbon footprint in accessing streaming content.
“Netflix and other companies are using this calculator as part of DIMPACT, a collaborative project that brings together entertainment and media companies and researchers from the University of Bristol. Netflix recently launched its own program using this tool. and found that worldwide one-hour streaming emissions are well below 100gCO2e, which is less than driving a gas-powered vehicle 400 meters,” Netflix said in a statement.
According to the streaming giant, carbon emissions in regions such as the United States, Canada, Latin America and Asia-Pacific are slightly higher than the numbers in Europe, where the energy grid emits less CO2.
“By better understanding this carbon footprint, we will be able to focus more on reducing these emissions in all regions, in all countries, around the world,” concludes the company.
Recently, Netflix announced that it intends to have zero gas emissions by the end of 2022.
With information from the Netflix press office.