Streaming Music Shamed for its Inadvertent Carbon Output

By Gary Cutlack on at

Just when you think you're doing the right thing by not buying lumps of plastic that say "Foo Fighters" on them, it turns out that modern streaming is every bit as polluting as legacy forms of physical music.

This sad fact comes from analysis of carbon output from the server farms that stream today's digital libraries, which, when compared with carbon pumped into making vinyl, cassette tapes and CDs in years gone, is equally bad for the world. There's no environmentally sound way to listen to music, unless you have a child and buy a piano.

Streaming is worse in terms of carbon output than the peak plastic music eras too, with the stats saying that 140 million kilograms of carbon was output by the vinyl production processes in 1977, 136 million kg was hit in 1988 by the demand for cassette tapes, and 157 million kg of warming gases were emitted by the CD industry in 2000. But that's all dwarfed by 2016's streaming footprint, with the computers taking music consumption up to a level of as high as 350 million kilograms of dirty gas output from all the power consumed.

Dr Kyle Devine of the University of Oslo said: "From a plastic pollution perspective, the good news is that overall plastic production in the recording industry has diminished since the heyday of vinyl. From a carbon emissions perspective, however, the transition towards streaming recorded music from internet-connected devices has resulted in significantly higher carbon emissions than at any previous point in the history of music." [University of Glasgow via Business Green]

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