Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is Google Destroying the Earth?

Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research. Oh no! Will the world end because of Google? Sure seems some people believe so, or is that hopes so!

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2. Boiling a kettle generates about 15g.

“Google operates huge data centers around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centers. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the Internet is provoking concern, at least among a few folks. A recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines—about 2% of global CO2 emissions.

“Data centers are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Banks of servers storing billions of Web pages require power.

Though Google says it is in the forefront of green computing, its search engine generates high levels of CO2 because of the way it operates. When you type in a Google search for, say, “energy saving tips," your request doesn’t go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other.

It may even be sent to servers thousands of miles apart. Google’s infrastructure sends you data from whichever produces the answer fastest. The system minimizes delays but raises energy consumption.

Okay, I’m not a scientists. I don’t play one on TV or even on my blog.

But, from my perspective, this is much ado about nothing! Come on Harvard University. Don’t you have other liberal matters to be teaching your students and move off the greenhouse gas effect? Obviously not.

Wonder who funded this study? Maybe Microsoft? Yahoo?


  1. This reminds me of the study they did (and the government paid for) on the affect of cow flatulence on the ozone layer. Give me a break! This is sort of the same old same old. Some people with too much money and too much time on their hands.

  2. slight correction...the government really didn't pay for that study--you and I did! The taxpayers! We sometimes forget that when the government is paying for these ridiculous studies that it is US working our rear-ends off to fund these studies!

    I wonder when the day will come that we finally grow tired of it and have another tea party?

  3. You wonder "who funded this study"?

    Come on, Steve! It was the Democrats! ;-)

  4. Yes, Rick, I'm sure it was!

    Thankfully, we have 4 more years of them in charge! Just for you...all for you!

  5. Check out this impressive solar panel project that Google has implemented - The Greening of Google.

    If you look at their campus via a satellite view, from Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or any other source, you can see the panels all over the campus roofs and even their covered parking.

  6. So, you too, think there's an agenda behind this report?

  7. I've decided in my cynical old-age, that there is ALWAYS an agenda. :P

  8. Well, there are many bigger fish to fry than just the amount of CO2 generated by stuff. What about the toxic chemicals in old CRT monitors that are getting dumped in China, even though it's illegal. Or the use of mercury in gold mining because it is so much more profitable.

    So what if Google's technology leverages multiple servers? The servers are running anyway, and their hard drives are always spinning so they're going to use the same amount of power whether you utilize it or not.

    The things people focus on...


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I can't wait to read what you have written.