Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in digital news media: the ethical implications for journalists and media organisations

Stephen Wood, Paul Shabajee, Daniel Schien, Christopher Hodgson, Chris Preist

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Furthering a socially and environmentally sustainable society may be seen as an important part of ethical journalism. Digital media technologies have the potential to extend the opportunities for journalists to make positive contributions to sustainable development. However, it is increasingly recognised that digital technologies are responsible for significant emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHGs). But how much GHG is emitted as a result of delivering an online news service and what are the ethical implications for journalists and media organisations? To begin answering these questions we constructed a model to estimate the quantity of GHGs emitted as the result of one news product - - over a year. Novelly, our model took into account where, how, and on what devices users consumed the service. Using this model we estimated that the electricity used in delivering and consuming during 2012 resulted in the emission of approximately 10,000 tCO2e, about a third of the total GHG emissions reported by the parent media organisation over the same period. While our results suggest that the creation and distribution of digital content does result in significant emissions - something that digital journalists and media organisations may wish to reflect on - they also raise practical challenges for how those emissions might be managed. For example, we found that over 80% of energy use and so GHG emissions was attributable to user's devices, which are not typically under the direct control of content creators. In this context we discuss the sustainability implications of the growth of digital media.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013
EventThe Future of Journalism 2013 - Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sep 201313 Sep 2013


ConferenceThe Future of Journalism 2013
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • ict
  • energy
  • journalism
  • sustainability
  • internet
  • ethics

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in digital news media: the ethical implications for journalists and media organisations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this