Rumours of Google causing planetary meltdown much exaggerated

Anyone who saw this article Revealed: the environmental impact of Google searches in The Times recently might have been living in fear of the environmental impact of using Google, after the article claimed that performing two Google searches “uses up as much energy as boiling the kettle”, and generates the same amount of CO2.

The story was based on the work of a Harvard physicist, one Alex Wissner-Gross, who has spent much of his time since the article was published trying to set the story straight. “Our work has nothing to do with Google. Our focus was exclusively on the Web overall, and we found that it takes on average about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second to visit a Web site.”

It is true that using the web, like everything else we do in life, has an environmental impact – but running hardware like computers themselves is more of a concern than performing searches. Searches only accrue a carbon footprint when you take into account the computers and servers that the searches run on, and even then we’re not quite at the stage where we need to stop searching in order to save polar bears.

The researcher himself attributes The Times focus on Google as “an easy way to sell newspapers”, but it’s unlikely that Google itself will be unduly upset by the claims – if anything the whole affair has given the search giant another opportunity to establish its green credentials.

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