Study Says Streaming Music May Have Harmful Effects on the Environment

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

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

  1. era / ˈɛr ə / (n) – a period of time that is associated with certain characteristics, events, etc.

    The country experienced an era of economic success when he was the prime minister.

  2. prevalent / ˈprɛv ə lənt / (adj) – common or widespread for a certain period of time

    The use of CDs was prevalent in the early 2000s.

  3. surge / sɜrdʒ / (v) – to suddenly rise to a very high level

    Our electric consumption surges every summer because we use air conditioners all day at home.

  4. notion / ˈnoʊ ʃən / (n) – a general belief about something

    Spending time with people helps correct false notions about them.

  5. massive / ˈmæs ɪv / (adj) – having a large amount or degree

    I couldn’t process the massive amount of information from yesterday’s class.


Read the text below.

A study has found that music streaming may have more detrimental effects on the environment than physical formats.

A team of researchers from the University of Oslo and the University of Glasgow discovered that streaming music online has a higher environmental impact than using physical media like CDs and records.

The researchers compared the carbon emissions produced from manufacturing physical formats with those generated from storing and transmitting audio files. They found that although shifting from physical formats to streaming significantly reduced the use of plastic, it also led to higher greenhouse gas emissions. 

The assessment of emissions from the music industry revealed that before the era of online streaming, manufacturing physical formats produced around 140 to 150 million kilograms of greenhouse gases. However, when streaming became prevalent, emissions surged to over 200 million kilograms in the United States alone.

Associate professor Kyle Devine, the study’s lead author, said that people have the notion that streaming music has little environmental impact. However, the study disproved this by showing the negative effects of data centers on the environment. Streaming services use data centers to store music. These centers operate on massive amounts of electricity and continuously produce heat, generating a large carbon footprint.

According to Matt Brennan from the University of Glasgow, the objective of the study was not to stop people from streaming music. Instead, it aimed to encourage consumers to be more appreciative of the costs of listening to music and lead them to look for more eco-friendly ways to enjoy it.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think this study’s findings will change the way people listen to music? Why or why not?
• What do you think streaming companies should do to make up for their impact on the environment (e.g. increase the price of their service to donate, lessen users and servers)?

Discussion B

• What do you think are other common activities that may be harmful to the environment (e.g. using computers frequently, going to the gym)? Discuss.
• Do you think people should lessen these activities to help the environment? Why or why not?