Is Googling Bad For the Environment?

By  |  Monday, January 12, 2009 at 12:52 am

teakettle“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.” So begins a story in the UK’s TimesOnline on a Harvard researcher’s upcoming study on computing’s environmental impact. I’m not sure what to make of that stat–is it a given that making a cup of tea is a more worthy undertaking than doing two Google searches? (The article’s in a British publication, so maybe so.)

But Google has responded in a blog post, saying that it runs the world’s most energy-efficient data centers and that the study’s math is all wrong. Driving a car for .6 of a mile, Google says, creates as much greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.

None of these calculations strike me as being terribly valuable. Every search performed on Google has a different worth–or, at least, one performed by a cancer researcher in his or her work is surely more valutable than one performed by someone in search of funny pictures of cats, reviews of Adam Sandler movies, or porn. And why get uptight about the environmental impact of something so basically useful as Googling until we’ve shut down all ferris wheels, shoe-polishing machines, factories that produce whoopie cushions, and other power-hungry institutions that aren’t essential to humanity’s survival?

Anyhow, would you cut down on Web searching in the interest of being green?



3 Comments For This Post

  1. zato Says:

    Why would some “scientist” publish such nonsense, especially when anyone with an engineering background would find the “numbers” highly suspect immediately. Why would a scientist throw away his credibility unless there was some very good reason or very large reward.

  2. David A. Sampayo Says:

    FYI, the official Google blog has put up a response to the initial accusation and, as expected, the numbers are *way way* lower than initially accused:

  3. Chris Jones Says:

    These climate change people are f*cking nuts. I can’t believe people buy into this cult of junk science.

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