Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

The environmental cost of a Google search

By Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca.

A Harvard physicist and green-website founder's assertion that running two Google searches released the same amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as boiling a kettle of tea has caused a tempest in a you-know-what.

Type in "google search kettle" in Google and you'll get a host of links to the study mentioned in the Times of London over the weekend, the nut of which is this: the search you just tried released the equivalent of about 7 grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

However, not everyone (that is, almost no one in the tech world) appears to be buying the findings of Alex Wissner-Gross, an Environmental Fellow at Harvard University and the co-founder of CO2Stats, which lets websites track their carbon footprint.

Chief among the detractors is Google Senior vice president of operations Urs Hölzle, who wrote in the company's blog that a typical Google search requires far less energy, and therefore releases far less CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas than Wissner-Gross's figures.

Hölzle said each search amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ, or "just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds."

From the blog:

"In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. The current EU standard for tailpipe emissions calls for 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer driven, but most cars don't reach that level yet. Thus, the average car driven for one kilometer (0.6 miles for those of in the U.S.) produces as many greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches."

Google is not the only one to question Wissner-Gross's findings, with the UK's The Register questioning his kettle calculations in typically acerbic fashion while TechCrunch compares the environmental costs of a search versus the cost of producing a single book - 2,500 grams, based on figures from publisher Penguin UK.

While it's hard to know what to make of Wissner-Gross's numbers - they have yet to be published - Google's figures are the first publication of their own estimates, giving us a chance to calculate the impact of all of those searches.

According to comScore, there were 7.784 billion Google searches conducted in November 2008 in the U.S. alone. At Google's calculation of 0.2 grams of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas per search, that comes to 1.557 million kg of CO2 equivalent for the month, or about 18.7 million kg in a year.

Now, context: the U.S. in 2006 contributed 7,054.2 teragrams, or 7,054,200,000,000 kg, of CO2 Eq. greenhouse gases, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest figures.

I realize mixing 2006 and 2008 numbers leads to all sorts of fudging, but the point is this: Google searches would account for about two and half millionths of a per cent of emissions. That it something, but I suspect if you compare Google to the other top companies in the world, and think of all of those saved trips to libraries, it seems consumers probably shouldn't fret too much over the impact of all of those searches. But just in case, maybe consider adding a few more bookmarks to your browser.

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.

Comments

Robt

Toronto

Gee, this sounds familiar.

A study by an 'environmental fellow' at haravrd has made allegations that Google searches are slowing and inexorably destroying our planet!!!

Proof? None whatsoever!

Posted January 12, 2009 09:17 PM

Gordon Chamberlain

Canada

Actually shouldn't we be measuring a Google search and all activities against their ecological footprint? As electrical generation produces water contamination from strip coal mining, air pollution, massive swaths of destroyed landscape, mercury, Nox Sox, fine particulate or nuclear waste. Then some where over the live of the search is the electronic hazardous waste with it's toxic components so carbon footprint in an inaccurate measurement. So when we measure or shoot for renewable energy we should measure these against the ecological footprint of coal and nuclear and not just carbon footprint unless we want to continue deluding our self that the price of coal should be the viable cost for evaluating renewable. Not that they are not with their challenges primary being intermittent which we hope to solve with storage solutions.

Posted January 17, 2009 09:48 PM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment

Disclaimer:

Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

Analysis Why the spy trade is such a booming industry: Brian Stewart
The alleged Russian plot that targeted the U.S. presidential election has raised concerns we’re headed for Cold War levels of spying, but there’s actually plenty of evidence the world soared past that point years ago.
Ceasefire talks between Syria and rebels get off to tense start
Syria's government envoy and a rebel leader trade barbs as talks between the Mideast country's warring sides get underway in Kazakhstan in the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides.
Analysis Trump takes charge: How NAFTA renegotiations might unfold video
The soundbite from Donald Trump's presidential inauguration speech could strike fear into a free trader's heart: "We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American." Following through on his rhetoric will be anything but simple.
more »

Canada »

Go Public 'Whatever means necessary': How these insiders tricked Loblaws shoppers into signing up for credit cards video
Three salesmen who were tasked with pitching plastic at Loblaws-owned grocery stores say they were pressured to sign up as many as 50 people a day by targeting young and low-income shoppers.
Exclusive Canadian Rangers lack support and health care access, military ombudsman says
The Canadian Forces Ombudsman is halfway through an investigation into the Canadian Rangers and says the northern patrol unit lacks support staff and access to health care. His investigation follows CBC News stories about deaths among members of the remote units.
Analysis Marijuana business expands beyond smoke and rolling papers: Don Pittis
With new Canadian rules on cannabis legalization just around the corner, money is pouring into an increasingly complex marijuana sector. Is it a sound investment or market euphoria?
more »

Politics »

New Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner heads to Calgary to meet with Liberal cabinet
U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner will travel to Calgary Tuesday to speak with members of the Liberal cabinet.
Analysis Trump takes charge: How NAFTA renegotiations might unfold video
The soundbite from Donald Trump's presidential inauguration speech could strike fear into a free trader's heart: "We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American." Following through on his rhetoric will be anything but simple.
Trump pledges border tax, less red tape and trade renegotiations on first weekday in office
The new U.S. president doubled down on some of his campaign promises on Monday, including punitive tax hikes for U.S. companies that ship jobs overseas and sharp reductions in corporate taxes, red tape and regulations.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Madonna defends anti-Trump speech at women's march
Madonna is defending her fiery, expletive-laden speech at the women's march, saying her words were "taken wildly out of context."
Aziz Ansari tackles Trump, Islamophobia and 'casual white supremacy' on SNL
There was no impersonation of Donald Trump by actor Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live this week but guest host Aziz Ansari gave his own two cents about the new president.
Ryan Gosling, Denis Villeneuve among Canadians likely to get Oscar nominations
When this year's Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday, there's a good chance some Canadians will be prominently in the mix, most notably Quebec director Denis Villeneuve and London, Ont.-born actor Ryan Gosling.
more »

Technology & Science »

New U.S. states uncertain what Trump victory means for wind and solar power
President Donald Trump has disputed climate change, pledged a revival of coal and disparaged wind power, and his nominee to head the Energy Department was once highly skeptical of the agency's value. What this means for states' efforts to promote renewable energy is an open question.
Samsung blames Galaxy Note 7 smartphone fires on battery design, manufacturing
Samsung Electronics Co. says problems with the design and manufacturing of batteries in its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones caused them to overheat and burst into fire.
Non-browning apple coming to U.S. next month but Canada will have to wait video audio
The genetically modified non-browning apple a B.C. man has been developing for more than two decades will finally end up on some U.S. produce shelves next month. But Canada will have to wait to take its bite.
more »

Money »

Trump pledges border tax, less red tape and trade renegotiations on first weekday in office
The new U.S. president doubled down on some of his campaign promises on Monday, including punitive tax hikes for U.S. companies that ship jobs overseas and sharp reductions in corporate taxes, red tape and regulations.
IPhone-maker Foxconn mulling U.S. factory for displays
Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics maker, is considering setting up a display-making plant in the United States in an investment that would exceed $7 billion US, company chairman and chief executive Terry Gou said on Sunday.
Analysis Marijuana business expands beyond smoke and rolling papers: Don Pittis
With new Canadian rules on cannabis legalization just around the corner, money is pouring into an increasingly complex marijuana sector. Is it a sound investment or market euphoria?
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Breaking Double Olympic medallist Roseline Filion announces retirement
Canadian diver Roseline Filion confirmed her retirement on Monday. The native of Laval, Que., won a bronze medal in the women's 10-metre synchronized platform at Rio 2016. Filion also captured bronze in the same event at London 2012.
Video Canadians sweep podiums in 2 different sports video
Olympic sports roundup: Canadians break out the brooms video
It was a jam-packed weekend of high-performance sport around the world, including a pair of podium sweeps by Canadian freestyle skiers and snowboarders.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »