Climate study: One hour of YouTube is as damaging as a kilometer by car

There are 7.3 million Netflix users in Germany alone.

Mateusz Slodkowski / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Whether streaming or video conferences – during the corona crisis, the amount of data on the internet has increased significantly. Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) therefore wants to make digitization environmentally friendly so that the Internet has a better climate balance.

“Streaming is also climate-friendly. It doesn’t have to be the new way of flying, ”said Schulze on Thursday at a video conference. “Streaming via WLAN or broadband connection is usually much more energy-efficient than via the cellular network.”

Schulze cited comparative figures: while watching a series of hours over the cellular network causes 90 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the worst case – as much as a Renault Twingo or Fiat Punto on one kilometer drive – in the best case, you only use two grams in WLAN.

“A very significant part of the energy consumption when streaming video arises from the transfer of data from the cloud to the users,” emphasized the minister. There are “big differences, depending on the technology used to transmit the data”.

Record at Internet nodes in Frankfurt: data throughput of two million HD videos per second

The findings come from a research project “Green Cloud Computing” commissioned by the Federal Environment Agency. The Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration and the Berlin Öko-Institut measured the environmental impact of online storage and video streaming.

According to Schulze, the results are not based on assumptions, as in other studies, but for the first time on real measurements.

Due to the corona pandemic, the use of cloud services in Germany increased significantly. From February to March – within a month – the amount of data increased by 30 percent, emphasized the President of the Federal Office, Dirk Messner. In March, a value of 9.16 terabits was measured at the Internet hub Frankfurt / Main, the highest data throughput per second ever recorded there. It corresponds to the simultaneous transmission of more than two million HD videos.

Schulze calls for broadband expansion and 5G

“When expanding broadband, priority should be given to energy-efficient fiber optic networks wherever possible. The 5G infrastructure must replace the very inefficient 3G as quickly as possible, ”demanded the environment minister. She also wants a binding energy pass to be introduced for data centers, which should provide information on energy consumption and performance.

“There is an extremely wide range of energy consumption in the individual data centers,” says Schulze. “Overall, the energy consumption and thus the CO2 emissions in data centers compared to other factors when using cloud services are significantly less than previously assumed.”

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