Monday, 12 January 2009

Carbon footprint of that Google Search

Oh no! You've just looked up this blog - think of the carbon footprint of such a rash action! Well a back of the envelope calculation, but one which takes into account the real energy usage of IT server farms and desktop PCs, has revealed that two Google searches cost the same in energy terms as boiling a kettle. The story broke on the Sunday Times yesterday and has made its way across the web over the last couple of days. Aside from the funny little comments many of the journalists have appended to the item, it is sobering to consider just how much energy is being gobbled up by modern lifestyles. Another comparison is that your Second Life avatar uses as much energy in a year as the average Brazilian. Makes you think, doesn't it?

1 comment:

Iain said...

From tonight's Chronicle!:

Google Searches: Maybe a Boiling Teaspoon, Not a Kettle
Yesterday, we passed along an arresting story from The Sunday Times, which said that two Google searches and boiling one kettle of water both generated about the same amount of greenhouse gases.

In response to the story, Google deployed its public-relations machine almost faster than the search engine could yield results to the 13th most popular search of the day, "teacher slept with boy 300 times" (84,900 results in .53 seconds).

"As computers become a bigger part of more people's lives, information technology consumes an increasing amount of energy, and Google takes this impact seriously," said a statement on the official Google blog, posted the morning the Times story came out. "That's why we have designed and built the most energy efficient data centers in the world, which means the energy used per Google search is minimal."

Two Google searches equaling a pot of boiling water is wildly overstated, Google said. A search burns about 0.0003 kilowatts of energy. "The average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches."

The Harvard researcher in the middle of the story, Alex Wissner-Gross, also criticized the Times story in a follow-up interview in TechNewsWorld. He said he never mentions Google in his research.

"Our work has nothing to do with Google," he said. "Our focus was exclusively on the Web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a Web site." His research, he said, also never mentions tea kettles.

However, he did point out that "everything online has a definite environmental impact," he said. "I think everybody can agree on that, including Google." --Scott Carlson