By watching porn movies we increase CO2 emissions

Pornhub: Illustration, Photo: Shutterstock

The transmission and viewing of online video content generates 300 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or almost one percent of the global emission of that gas. On-demand video services, such as the online production company Netflix, are responsible for a third of that figure, while only pornographic videos on the Internet generate another third, according to the scientific magazine New Scientist.

This means that watching porn videos annually generates as much CO2 gas as countries like Belgium, Bangladesh and Nigeria

This is the conclusion of the French internet platform “The Shift Project”. Earlier this year, it was estimated that digital technologies produce four percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and that this figure could increase by up to eight percent by 20125.

The greenhouse effect is a process in which, due to the disturbance of energy balance, the planet Earth warms up. When part of the thermal radiation, which reaches the earth’s crust, is reflected into the atmosphere and, instead of going into space, it is absorbed by some gases in the atmosphere and returned to the Earth, it is additionally heated. In this way, the temperature of the Earth’s surface increases. The gases that contribute the most to this phenomenon are carbon dioxide and methane.

CO2 emissions from watching online videos are now also estimated. The French used the report of the companies “Cisco” and “Sandvine” from 2018, which calculated the global internet traffic of videos. They then estimated how much electricity was consumed in order to transmit this video content and watch it on various devices, from mobile phones to TVs.

Finally, they estimated total gas emissions using world average figures for the carbon dioxide emitted when electricity is turned on.

Online videos make up 60 percent of the global data flow in 2018, the report states, or one zetabit of data (one trillion trillion bits). The report’s definition of “online video” does not include live video streaming such as calls via the communication platform “Skype”, “camgirls” (girls on camera) or telemedicine, which are responsible for another 20 percent of global data flow.

Prevent autoplay and high resolutions

Advances in higher moving image quality, such as 8K resolution, will contribute to higher gas emissions. The same could happen with the launch of video game streaming services, such as “Google Stadia”, but the authors of the report did not try to assess their impact.

They call for measures to limit the broadcast of online videos, as well as to prevent the automatic launch of videos on the Internet and their transmission in a higher resolution if it is unnecessary. For example, some devices can now display content at a higher resolution than people can even perceive. The report states that regulation will be necessary.

The estimates are generally the same as those behind other CO2 emitters, Chris Prist, a professor at the University of Bristol in Britain, who studies the sustainability of technologies, told New Scientist magazine.

“Once again, the need for digital service designers to think carefully about the overall impact of the services they provide has been demonstrated,” Prist said. “For individuals, less frequent improvement of our devices means owning fewer devices, and not having a high-quality mobile internet connection everywhere are probably the most important activities we can take.”

To limit climate change, we need to reduce energy consumption and switch to renewable energy sources, said one of the authors of the report, Maksim Efoui. “By producing new energy infrastructure it generates emissions, even though the electricity produced is possibly renewable,” he said.