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While the Amazon forest is burning down several questions are asked with big concern for the future of our planet. With 80% of the world energy generated from fossil fuel, we thought digital could be an alternative. Is it?

The Paris Agreement on climate change committed several states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by the end of next decade. To achieve this goal, states were asked to review and rethink their energy consumption, which is as I stated previously, mainly generated from fossil fuels.

Digital was considered as an eco-friendly alternative by different economic and political bodies. In fact, these bodies consider digital technologies as not compatible to previously passed climate change recommendations and imperatives. 

However, the truth is, direct and indirect impact of the use of digital technologies on the environment is growing at an alarming rate.

Though there’s a global efforts to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, digital technologies energy consumption is growing at 9% per year. Today, digital technologies is responsible for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to civil aviation emissions. By 2025, this percentage is expected to reach 8%. (The Shift Project 2018)

Digital Technologies - Gas Emission

How is video traffic distributed globally?

In 2018, videos accounted for 60% of the global traffic. From this percentage, the leading niches were Video on Demand (33.5%) and Adult Videos (26.7%). 

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Porn at 27% of all videos online

According to The Shift project, adult videos hosted represented 27% of all videos online. These excludes pictures and live videos.

Porn consumptions also resulted in 5% of  all digital technologies’ greenhouse effects gas emissions in 2018. 

Videos produce the most CO2 gas

With 60% of global traffic, a 10 hours of high-definition movie is equivalent to all Wikipedia’s english articles in text format. 

While videos are widely used by digital marketers, the growing concerns of their contributions to global warming is alarming. In fact, according to a study by the Shift Project, in 2018, videos generated over 306 millions tonnes of C02, hence equaling to 20% of CO2 gas from digital technologies. 

Video on demand (VoD) represented 34% of all videos online and drive 20% of all traffic to videos. VoD also accounts for 7% of all CO2 gas emissions of digital technologies.

On the other side, Pornography videos which accounted for 27% of all videos online, drove 16% of all video traffic and emitted 5% of the CO2 gas from digital technologies. 

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What explains the growth in video consumption and its impact on the environment?

The growth of video consumptions increased over the past few years for several reasons. To name a few, the ability to share information faster, the increase in mobile and internet connectivity and a change in customers’ behaviours. 

In this blog post, I will give you two other reasons which are also outlined in the report from Shift Project.

The hook model

Briefly explained, the Hook Model is a way to make sure your audience stay loyal, engaged and active with your brand. Streamers saw in this an opportunity to increase their viewers count by: 

      1. Enjoying blurry lines when it comes to pirated streaming; and
      2. Rethinking the whole experience of video suggestions by using customers’ browsing data which includes not only videos viewed but also the search intent. 
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An increasing energy consumption path

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While the expectations of green digital is still a blurry image, we are failing to acknowledge the impact of our online consumption. Here’s the truth, nothing online comes for free. At some point, the creation of online content blends with the physical world and in doing so consumes energy. 

The Shift Project advocates for a sober digital transition where:

    1. We change our devices less often;
    2. We reduce unnecessary energy-intensive uses and
    3. We buy the least powerful equipment possible.

About the Shift Project

The Shift Project is a French think tank advocating the shift to a post-carbon economy. As a non-profit organisation committed to serving the general interest through scientific objectivity, we are dedicated to informing and influencing the debate on energy transition in Europe.

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