Streaming Music Leads to Carbon Emissions

Streaming music is famous but in exchange for carbon emissions.

Streaming Music Leads to Carbon Emissions
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Streaming Music Leads to Carbon Emissions


Streaming music is on the rise for the last two decades. Access to online streaming facilitates users to listen to music hits online. For example, Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee got 4.6 billion hits since it was released online. 

There are several other hits on online streaming sites, and better facilities to have access to them have changed the users' habits. Too many subscribers on streaming sites were not possible two decades ago. The whole music industry had a revolutionary change with the help of streaming technologies. 

It is good news for the streaming sites and the listeners. But this massive growth has negative impacts too. The high rate of online streaming can hamper our environment through carbon emissions, although online streaming consumes less energy than that of playing physical products. But listening to music with streaming technologies allows users to cling to the music channel for long. The more time users spend on online streaming, the more carbon they emit without having any clue.     

To assess the consumption of a massive hit like Despacito, the European Commission formed a team of experts. Dr. Rabih Bashroush was the leader of the group, and according to their research, Despacito played for 4.6 billion times consumes as much electricity as the combined annual electricity consumption by many African nations like Sierra Leone, Somalia, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, and the Central African Republic!   

The Shift Project from France has provided the world with such reports that advocate for digital sobriety. Some video-on-demand services like Amazon Prime and Netflix produce as much greenhouse gases similar to the emissions of a country like Chile.  

Sharon George works as a lecturer in environmental science at Keele University. He says, "People can't assume that just because something doesn't have a physical format, that it's got no carbon attached to it. There's still electronic use, servers involved, and the digital world does still have a carbon footprint."

The team focused on several factors to find out the emission levels. First of all, they focused on how much power a device needs to keep on. Then comes the energy level to store and share information. From hosting servers to redistribute internet traffic, data centers also intake high volume energy.

Streaming music or video sites are responsible for 0.3 percent of carbon dioxide emissions across the world.

Kyle Devine wrote a book, 'Decomposed' on streaming music's effect on climate. The University of Oslo professor says, "Even back in 2012, I knew from reading some good journalism that digital files are material things, and the internet was not weightless."  

He used Greenpeace's Click Clean Scorecard along with other tools to find out the energy practices by the streaming companies. So, he focused on both downloading and streaming.

Although some streaming technologies like Netflix and Spotify are relatively new in the field, they create an environmental impact that can affect other people who are not in this field.

Form the Shift Project and the EU Commission reports; we can know that streaming technology produces more carbon than we thought earlier. The techniques are responsible for emitting 4 percent of total greenhouse gas worldwide, and the rate will double up by 2025. 

YouTube, Hulu, and the like are some of the mentionable online video streaming sites. These sites are responsible for emitting 60 percent of the total figure, and currently, the sites emit 306 million tonnes of carbon each year. 

It seems that listening to music on Spotify for a while can release greenhouse gas a bit unreal. But it is happening while you are enjoying the latest tracks.  

Devine used Greenpeace research compiled back in 2015/2016 to understand the technological patterns of the giant streaming companies like Spotify. The companies started with high volume technical equipment, and the number of them increased in the last five years as these platforms got massive momentum from users.  

George says, "We use IT in so many different ways. IT can provide a platform to decarbonize other areas of society too, such as in transport, where technology can replace flights or travel to conferences, but there's a role for those companies to be carbon neutral or even carbon negative."

Another major factor is the hardware. As the appliances are not produced and disposed of with proper efficiency, they lead to contribute further to carbon emission. Experts have little ideas on downloading files type, their resolution, and the energy level they need to stay alive. The team faces difficulty in finding these dimensions. So, the consequences can be far more destructive than we already know.