The surprising carbon footprint of a Google search

How do you contribute to climate change every time you look something up?
How much CO2 do your Google searches use? (Pixabay)
Listen7:50

From the energy we consume, to the waste we produce, we have become very aware of the impact humans have on the environment.  

"It was back in 2013, I was in my studio and suddenly I looked at my screen, and I realized that all the stuff that I've been browsing during the day, it couldn't come for free. That it had to have some sort of environmental impact, but I just didn't know which one."

Joana Moll is a net-based artist and researcher in Barcelona. In 2014, Moll created the website CO2GLE. CO2GLE is a simple white screen, with plain black text across the screen that reads, "GOOGLE.COM EMITTED ____ KG OF CO2 SINCE YOU OPENED THIS PAGE." The site's live counter increases the number of kilograms based on the length of time the visitor is on the page.
Joana Moll, net-based artist and researcher (Joana Moll)

Moll claims the installation tracks the approximate amount of CO2 emissions created  through the use of Google.

"I think it's very critical that the environmental impact of the internet is not embedded in the social imagination. What I want to try further from raising awareness, is to embed this into the user's mind…Because the action, and the consequence when operating through an electronic device are highly separated."

According to Google's Environmental Report: 2017 Progress Update, in 2016 its net operational carbon emissions were zero, as a result of both carbon offset programs and their use of renewable energy. After four years online, Moll's work has only now elicited a response from Google. According to Moll, Google has opened a dialogue with her to question the validity of CO2GLE, while open to the open line of communication, Moll maintains her numbers are only approximations and that she has a few questions of her own.

"I would like to ask them the methodologies they are using to get all the data they get, in terms of environmental impact of their actions, their operations… And how they can claim they are completely green, when the internet is not their infrastructure.  They are a part of the internet, but they don't own the internet, and they need the other operators also in order for them to exist. So I want to understand how they include this in their numbers."

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