While news stories abound about IT’s growing environmental footprint, geeks everywhere are abuzz today about a Google-centered eco-controversy. The brouhaha centers on one query: how much carbon dioxide does your typical Google search generate?
According to Harvard University Alex Wissner-Gross, each Google search is responsible for 7 grams of carbon emissions. To put that in less virtual terms, he suggests every two searches generate as much carbon dioxide as it does to boil a kettle of water for tea.
Or does it? The wags at The Register skewer Wissner-Gross’s yet-to-be published research, hauling out a host of objections. First, they argue, bringing a kettle to boiling produces between 50 and 60 grams of carbon dioxide, not the 15 grams cited by Wissner-Gross. Next, they point out, it should be noted that Wissner-Gross stands to benefit from the marketing of carbon offsets (in addition to his Harvard post, he’s CTO of CO2Stats, whose slogan is “making Websites green”).
The Register then moves on to identify a culprit far worse than Google searches: the daily output of methane — a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide — caused by, no, not cows, but humans breaking wind.
Wait, where did this all start? Oh right, Google’s carbon footprint per search.
Not surprisingly, Google also takes Wissner-Gross’s research to task, arguing that its energy-efficient data centers generate just 0.2 grams of carbon dioxide per search, meaning it would take 1000 Google searches to equal the emissions of a car driven for one kilometer.
Head spinning yet? Mine is. Tea-time, anyone?