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Stream video in standard definition NOT 4K or UHD to cut carbon emissions: Royal Society urges

The world’s oldest independent scientific academy, Royal Society is advising people to stream video in standard definition on their smartphone rather than 4K to help reduce carbon emissions.

In a new report, the Society estimates that streaming one hour on a smartphone generates roughly eight times more emissions in 4K or UHD (Ultra High Definition) compared with SD (Standard Definition).

Content lovers are unlikely to notice the difference in definition on a screen as small as a smartphone, according to the report.




Streaming services have a negative effect on the environment, due to the power required to transfer data, a large proportion of which is generated by non-renewable energy sources like gas and coal.

The Royal Society also advises the public to keep using the same smartphone for four years and not get drawn into the tech industry’s furious annual release cycles.

Tech fans can also help cut carbon emissions by buying gadgets second-hand and recycling them when they reach their end-of-life.



The scientific academy says digital technology’s estimated contribution to global carbon emissions range from 1.4 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

But it’s hopeful that digital technology, from smart meters to supercomputers and AI, could deliver nearly one third of the 50 per cent carbon emission reduction required by 2030.

Humanity needs to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 in order to keep on a pathway to keep the global average temperature increase well below 3.6°F (2°C), as per the target of the Paris Agreement.