Listening to Music Online Brings More Harm to the Environment Than CDs

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. physical / ˈfɪz ɪ kəl / (adj) – can be touched and seen

    We used to own physical copies of movies in VCDs and DVDs.

  2. transition / trænˈzɪʃ ən / (v) – to change from an old form to a new one

    We can help save the environment if we transition from using fossil fuels to using solar energy.

  3. exponentially / ˌɛk spoʊˈnɛn ʃəli / (adv) – at a very fast rate

    The amount of pollution released into the air increases exponentially each year.

  4. critical / ˈkrɪt ɪ kəl / (adj) – thinking about something carefully before accepting it as true

    We should be critical of new solutions to environmental problems and ask about their pros and cons.

  5. mitigate / ˈmɪt ɪˌgeɪt / (v) – to reduce the harm or negative effect of something

    The government is thinking of multiple actions to mitigate the effects of global warming.


Read the text below.

A study has shown that music streaming impacts the environment more negatively than records and CDs do.

In recent years, music streaming, or listening to music online, has become more common, replacing physical media like records and CDs. As people transitioned from using physical media to streaming, the use of plastic in the American music industry was downsized from 61 million kilograms in 2000 to just 8 million kilograms in 2016.

However, a joint study by the University of Glasgow and the University of Oslo found that carbon emissions actually worsened due to streaming. The researchers compared physical and digital media in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. In 2000, the United States produced about 157 million kilograms of greenhouse gases from the production of physical copies of music albums. On the other hand, music streaming produced up to over 350 million kilograms of greenhouse gases in 2016.

Although digital music does not make use of plastic, millions of electronic music files are stored on servers that consume electricity and consequently produce greenhouse gases. All online activities, including streaming and downloading files from these servers, also cost electricity. Thus, when several people stream music worldwide, the production of greenhouse gases increases exponentially.

The study’s lead author, Doctor Matt Brennan, explained that the study’s goal is to educate people about music consumption, and not to discourage people from listening to music. The researchers only want to encourage people to be more critical about the choices they make, and to choose services that benefit artists while mitigating the negative impacts on the environment.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think some people would lessen their music streaming after learning the findings of the study? Why or why not?
• Do you think going back to CDs is a good idea? Explain.

Discussion B

• What do you think the music industry can do to lessen the negative impact of streaming on the environment?
• If using the Internet causes harm to the environment, do you think using it in different industries should be lessened? Discuss.