Environmental impact assessment of online advertising

Matti Pärssinen, M. Kotila, R. Cuevas, A Phansalkar, Jukka Manner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
242 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

There are no commonly agreed ways to assess the total energy consumption of the Internet. Estimating the Internet's energy footprint is challenging because of the interconnectedness associated with even seemingly simple aspects of energy consumption.

The first contribution of this paper is a common modular and layered framework, which allows researchers to assess both energy consumption and CO2e emissions of any Internet service. The framework allows assessing the energy consumption depending on the research scope and specific system boundaries. Further, the proposed framework allows researchers without domain expertise to make such an assessment by using intermediate results as data sources, while analyzing the related uncertainties. The second contribution is an estimate of the energy consumption and CO2e emissions of online advertising by utilizing our proposed framework. The third contribution is an assessment of the energy consumption of invalid traffic associated with online advertising. The second and third contributions are used to validate the first.

The online advertising ecosystem resides in the core of the Internet, and it is the sole source of funding for many online services. Therefore, it is an essential factor in the analysis of the Internet's energy footprint. As a result, in 2016, online advertising consumed 20–282 TWh of energy. In the same year, the total infrastructure consumption ranged from 791 to 1334 TWh. With extrapolated 2016 input factor values without uncertainties, online advertising consumed 106 TWh of energy and the infrastructure 1059 TWh. With the emission factor of 0.5656 kg CO2e/kWh, we calculated the carbon emissions of online advertising, and found it produces 60 Mt CO2e (between 12 and 159 Mt of CO2e when considering uncertainty). The share of fraudulent online advertising traffic was 13.87 Mt of CO2e emissions (between 2.65 and 36.78 Mt of CO2e when considering uncertainty).

The global impact of online advertising is multidimensional. Online advertising affects the environment by consuming significant amounts of energy, leading to the production CO2e emissions. Hundreds of billions of ad dollars are exchanged yearly, placing online advertising in a significant role economically. It has become an important and acknowledged component of the online-bound society, largely due to its integration with the Internet and the amount of revenue generated through it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-200
JournalENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT REVIEW
Volume73
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Internet energy consumption CO2 emission Online advertising Invalid traffic
  • CO2 emission
  • online advertising
  • Invalid traffic

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