Streaming online pornography produces the same amount of carbon dioxide 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. 

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.”

In total, digital technologies emit four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions which is greater than civil aviation. Moves to create higher quality videos is pushing up these emissions which are set to double between now and 2025.

Chris Preist, from the University of Bristol, told New Scientist: “This once again demonstrates the need for the designers of digital services to think carefully about the overall impact of the services they provide.

“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.”

The authors of the report worked out global video traffic by looking at 2018 reports by companies Cisco and Sandvine. They then worked out how much electricity was needed to drive this traffic.  

They recommend bringing in measures to prevent videos autoplaying or transmitting videos in high definition when it is not needed. For example they say the deployment of high-resolution technology like “8K” could be an unnecessary extravagance when lower quality would suffice. 

They write: “From the standpoint of climate change and other planetary boundaries, it is not a question of being ‘for’ or ‘against’ pornography, telemedicine, Netflix or emails: the challenge is to avoid a use deemed precious from being impaired by the excessive consumption of another use deemed less essential.”

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