You may think watching TV is an innocuous pastime.
And telling people to watch less TV must certainly be one of the most unpopular messages ever.

Nevertheless, people should be aware that the contributions to CO2 emissions (and so to global warming) from internet TV and video are already larger than those from flying.
And while emissions from flying are only set to grow slowly, those from internet TV and video are rising rapidly.

This is all down to more and more people watching more and more TV and video at higher and higher resolutions.
And it is entirely unsustainable.

@wim_v12e I’m all for reducing TV consumption, but can you tell me a source for that claim that streaming is outputting more CO2 than flying? That is a really surprising statement to me, and after some brief searching I can’t find something to that fact.

@wim_v12e @chorist If I mathed correctly, 2% vs 2.87%?

But that’s still so much smaller a category than other problem areas

@antijingoist @chorist Of course it is, and I didn't claim otherwise. But with the projected growth, computing alone is enough to make us miss all climate targets in 2 decades from now, and video is the majority of that.
For the discussion of the growth, and more references, see

and also the paper linked in the thread

@wim_v12e @chorist
“Taking into account the carbon cost of both operation and production, computing would be responsible for 10 GtCO₂e by 2040, almost 80% of the acceptable CO₂ emissions budget”


@wim_v12e so are going to cite something or just stink up the room with your farts?

@wim_v12e but at the same time consumer emissions just aren't tipping the scales that much. I guess I'm getting pretty jaded about it but until the huge companies do something we're screwed anyway, so maybe distracting ourselves a little from the coming apocalypse isn't the worst thing?

@acdw At least for computing, emissions are the direct result from consumer actions.
And at the projected growth rates, emissions from computing could very well become the dominant emissions.

Based on e.g.
a very large part of emissions is directly related to the end user.

@wim_v12e Or the mega corporations that are the *actual* problem and main contributors to emissions can fix *their* problems. I'm going to keep watching TV.


I bet internet tv emissions could be lowered with less DRM


It's always important to remember when comparing anything to flying that it does matter that it's up in the air. (It's worse.) That sounded like kid logic when I first heard it but it seemed to check out when I looked into it.

@Sandra I know, the effect on warming of the exhausts at high altitude are worse. So flying is definitely bad. My point is only that with the projected growth rates, computing will be far worse.

@roboneko @wim_v12e @Sandra yeah computers don't really generate CO2, it's the energy plants they use for electricity
@roboneko @Sandra @wim_v12e so like, it's about as much a problem as any other electricity use

@straw @roboneko @Sandra
Sorry, I can't see what roboneko said, I guess that instance must be silenced from here.

The problem with computing is the projected growth. That is not the case for a lot of the other electricity use.

Renewables/nuclear are not going to save us, they will come too late. We need to cut emission now, we can't just wait 30 years for 100% renewables and in the meanwhile fill the increased electricity demand from computing with fossil fuels.

Finally, about half of the emissions from computing are from manufacturing of the devices and infrastructure, not from usage.

@wim_v12e @roboneko @Sandra
>Finally, about half of the emissions from computing are from manufacturing of the devices and infrastructure, not from usage.
that's interesting, I wasn't aware - however, I don't see the point of an argument about computing? is there really any path to be taken other than using renewable energy sources?

@straw @roboneko @Sandra Of course there is: reduce the electricity usage of computing. The obvious ways to do that are to compute less (which is what my original post implies) or to use less energy per compute task. That may sound nice but in practice efficiency gains won't offset projected growth in usage.
And on the manufacturing side, the obvious approach is to use devices for much longer, so we need far fewer of them.
That us what frugal computing is all about.

@wim_v12e @roboneko @Sandra I do agree, but it's a little hard to use less energy per compute task, as it's often dependent on the computer's architecture (e.g. ARM is designed for low power usage)

@straw @roboneko @Sandra
It depends on the specific compute task. Most of the emissions will be at the cloud data centre. There are still quite some efficiency gains that can be made there, through a combination of better load scheduling/run time management, compiler improvements and use of dedicated hardware.

But overall, simply computing less seems like a more effective solution to me.
The problem with efficiency gains is that they usually do not lead to reduced energy but to increased compute usage.

@wim_v12e @roboneko @Sandra
>Most of the emissions will be at the cloud data centre.
the real culprits are rarely individuals it seems, but corporations

@straw @roboneko @Sandra They sell what we buy. It's demand driven. They will minimise their costs and in a data centre that is mostly power; but they will grow capacity if there is more demand.

@wim_v12e @Sandra relaying @roboneko's post:

at this point all the architectures are targeting overall efficiency. gains have largely come from process shrink but that gets ever more difficult

but realistically, if you can do it on a cell phone then I don't think the energy consumption is notable versus other things in your day to day life. so at that point increases in computer usage are irrelevant imo since those are really just people in less developed parts of the world getting access. and they were presumably already using far more electricity for other things in their day to day lives

for example, a small window AC unit consumes slightly over 500 watts. my laptop only has a 40 watt hour battery. so running it for 5 minutes is equivalent to a full battery discharge which is 6+ hours of light usage

or compare your laptop to boiling half a liter of water for tea or coffee. and god forbid you eat food that was baked in an electric oven
@wim_v12e @Sandra to relay this post from @roboneko, as seemingly blocks

>yup realistically I refuse to live in a pod, eat the bugs, or give up my various computing devices. not getting rid of my car either. and I'm not even remotely extreme in my views compared to many around me. any solution that targets the thing itself instead of reducing impact by targeting the underlying source is doomed to fail
>I had assumed it was about electricity usage given some of the other stuff posted by the account. manufacturing is an interesting point for electronics because there are a lot of pretty bad chemicals involved
>but still, in terms of CO2 it's almost entirely the energy inputs to the process afaik (including mining, transport, and the like)

honestly I don't think eating bugs will be a big thing, probably lab-made vile creations to satisfy the consoomer and increase dependence
@roboneko @wim_v12e @Sandra
>hey I'd happily eat lab meat if the texture and flavor was equal to the natural stuff :02_shrug:
I wouldn't, based on principle. capitalists want to make us dependent on their chemical nutrition. it's not only lab meat anyway, they'll probably make some weird abomination to feed us with stuff other than meat.

@wim_v12e How much of a difference would it make if streaming were replaced by downloads and/or good old discs?

I suppose the other upside is that large-scale computing is relatively easy to decarbonize: you just have to change the power source. This may not always be simple for the whole supply chain, but it would be straightforward enough for the datacenters themselves.

@kechpaja Your last point first: renewables/nuclear will come too late to save us. We have 20 years and by then, current estimates are that still 70% of electricity will be from fossil fuels.
Downloads are only better than streaming if you watch something many times. Watching at lower resolution will be generally more effective.
Disks have the additional cost of manufacturing and transport. So again that only works if you watch them many times over.

@wim_v12e If the cable and satellite companies had offered a la carte subscriptions we wouldn’t all have cut the cord and switched to streaming. It was all a sadly predictable result of channel bundling to gouge consumers.

@mathew Emissions from satellite, cable and IPTV are roughly comparable.

@wim_v12e Interesting, I'd have expected satellite to be lower, but I guess it takes quite a lot of power to get the signal up to the satellites.

@mathew I know. This was a study done for the BBC by The Carbon Trust, in June 2021, so it is UK specific. The graph shows the overview.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

cybrespace: the social hub of the information superhighway jack in to the mastodon fediverse today and surf the dataflow through our cybrepunk, slightly glitchy web portal support us on patreon or liberapay!