I was recently told that an hour of watching Netflix causes about as much pollution as driving a car ten miles. I tried looking it up, but I can't find where to get that information, but I did find quite a few articles that data servers are quite the energy hogs.
That doesn't sound right, but I tried ducking "how much does watching an episode on Netflix pollute" and got exactly zero relevant hits. It does however remind me of something I read years ago about Google searches, found this article about it.
CO2GLE uses 2015 internet traffic data, Moll says, and is based on the assumption that Google.com “processes an approximate average of 47,000 requests every second, which represents an estimated amount of 500 kg of CO2 emissions per second.” That would be about 0.01 kg per request. She says these numbers are approximations, though when Quartz shared CO2GLE with Google, the company didn’t contest the math. In fact, in a 2009 estimate, Google said each query causes 0.2 grams of CO2 emissions.
A spokesperson also tells Quartz that providing one user with one month of Google services generates about the same amount of the greenhouse gas emissions as driving a car for one mile. (An average gasoline-powered car typically emits 8.91 kg of CO2 per gallon. In the US, cars average 24.7 miles per gallon, which would mean a car emits 360.7 grams of CO2 per mile.)
Is watching one episode on Netflix roughly equivalent to ten months worth of Google searches? Does "Google services" include YouTube and Gmail and all their other services, or just search? And can we at all rely on a number provided by a company spokesperson?
There are indeed some of us who try to reduce our electricity consumption for environmental reasons, but I bet most haven't considered much the electricity consumed by their cloud services. Now I'm wondering if some internet giants are greener than others.