Yesterday, the Sunday Times published an article saying that making two Google searches generates as much carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle – an act long associated with energy inefficiency. This outlandish claim comes from a Harvard University physicist working on the environmental impact of computing.
Far be it for me to try to debunk a Harvard physicist, but this is mostly rubbish. Google is a company that cares considerably more for the environment than many. Although it’s true that datacentres are remarkably inefficient creations, and the IT industry has a carbon footprint like any other industry, Google pales into nothing when compared to cars, fossil fuel power stations and the aviation industry.
I suspect that the real reason for this jab at one of the world’s biggest IT companies is simply a desire for more research funding, particularly since the article inexplicably ends with an utterly unrelated jab at celebrity Twitterers. Google’s Senior VP of Operations, Urs Hölzle, clears things up on the Official Google Blog.
EDIT: Turns out that the physicist in question is denying ever having said anything about kettles. Secondly it turns out that he runs a company that sells carbon offsets, called CO2Stats. Would you like a little conflict of interest with your coffee, monsieur?