Dead Trees v. Internet, Global Warming Smackdown

Is it better for global warming to read a newspaper online or in the dead tree edition?

Considering the electricity required to power computers on both ends of the internet, a Swedish study says it may be about the same.

“It should be noted that with a reading time of 30 minutes per day the environmental impact of the web based newspaper was often in the same range as the printed newspaper environmental impact, sometimes higher sometimes lower. The same result was presented by Hischier and Reichart (2001) in their comparison between printed newspaper, television and internet. Hischier and Reichart showed that using the Internet for around 25 minutes or watching the television for roughly 1.5 hours gave environmental impact of similar magnitude as a printed newspaper.”

The 2007 report from the Centre for Sustainable Communications at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm does say that mass use of more energy efficient readers now in development could change the environmental equation in favor of the internet.

The Swedish report could be biased by the nation’s large pulp industry. Of course newspapers also have a strong bias. They haven’t figured out how to make much money on the internet and without the dead tree editions, they’d go bankrupt. That could save a lot of trees falling in the forest. But, then again, if no one was around to report on it, who would hear about it?