Google searches causing global warming? Err… no.

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google-power-plant.jpgYesterday, 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?

“Revealed: the environmental impact of Google searches” (via Techmeme)

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Duncan Geere

9 comments

  • Good blog! I really love how it’s easy on my eyes as well as the data are well written.

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  • Well said, such a person should be a good sentence, or the future will be more rampant.

  • Global Warming:
    A 23-year-old theory with predictions started by the IPCC in 1990 and based on CO2 emissions starting 140 years ago with industrial revolution.
    The chaos predicted has not come to be unless you consider all of the money spent on studies of effects of global warming and not causes. Polar bears bad weather do not cause climate change. The only way to prove this theory wrong is of course time. Yet this self fulfilling prophecy now states that it will happen some time in the future after waiting a quarter of a century or 140 years, which ever one works best. The IPCC has now reduced the predictions to be “climate disruption”.
    This money train of studying effects of something that has not happened and is based solely on scientists saying the correlation between CO2 and the end of days is final proof of humans effecting our poor little 5 billion year old planet in a deadly fashion is dead on the vine now.
    Write any politician you can to stop this political pandering, as this is the only way this dead and disproved cultural trend of global warming will end.

    • There’s nothing ‘prophetic’ about climate change. It’s strongly founded in basic atmospheric physics, and reflects a reality that the world is only now coming to terms with. It’s already too late to avoid some of the lower-level consequences, but to avoid its worst effects, the world needs to take action immediately. But Googling less isn’t one of those actions.

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