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mkrishnan
Jan 14, 2009, 06:06 PM
http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article5489134.ece

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.

While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. “A Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

Another juicy tidbit:

Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch, Rewiring the World, has calculated that maintaining a character (known as an avatar) in the Second Life virtual reality game, requires 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That is almost as much used by the average Brazilian.

And Google issued a rejoinder...

http://timesonline.typepad.com/technology/2009/01/googles-respons.html

In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than Google uses to answer your query.

Recently, though, others have used much higher estimates, claiming that a typical search uses "half the energy as boiling a kettle of water" and produces 7 grams of CO2. We thought it would be helpful to explain why this number is *many* times too high. Google is fast — a typical search returns results in less than 0.2 seconds. Queries vary in degree of difficulty, but for the average query, the servers it touches each work on it for just a few thousandths of a second. Together with other work performed before your search even starts (such as building the search index) this amounts to 0.0003 kWh of energy per search, or 1 kJ. For comparison, the average adult needs about 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search uses just about the same amount of energy that your body burns in ten seconds.

In terms of greenhouse gases, one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2.

It is, however, interesting to think about overall the impact on the environment that the growth of the internet creates. And, cough, reminds me much of my complaining that politicians are crazy over plug-in hybrid cars, far in advance of real talk about increasing renewable, sustainable electricity generation.

runplaysleeprun
Jan 14, 2009, 08:07 PM
Even at .2 g produced, thats still a lot more than I would have guessed, and makes me shiver thinking how much pollution i've created googling.

Theophany
Jan 14, 2009, 08:10 PM
Oh noes! Somebody shut down the Internetz! :eek:

So what the article is essentially saying is that modern technology causes pollution that will eventually kill us all (allegedly...). So their solution is what? Go back to the stone age? Screw that.

twoodcc
Jan 14, 2009, 10:30 PM
this is something to think about. i mean, i never really thought about this before.

but i still can't imagine not using my computers though

millar876
Jan 15, 2009, 12:23 AM
the real question is...

...and exactly how many google searches did you do to find out this information?

gotzero
Jan 15, 2009, 12:23 AM
They do not consider the opportunity costs of what people would use instead to obtain the data they are after.

Another website? A book? A phone call?

There is no way to transmit data like this that is free of pollution.

What they should be exploring is whether google is doing things efficiently, and if not, how they can improve. Just showing an emissions number is not much help, but does get the headlines...

GorillaPaws
Jan 15, 2009, 07:55 AM
I'm guess I'm just going to hop in my SUV and drive to the library so I can use their computer card catalog system to find that book that might have the answer:rolleyes:

mkrishnan
Jan 15, 2009, 09:31 AM
So what the article is essentially saying is that modern technology causes pollution that will eventually kill us all (allegedly...). So their solution is what? Go back to the stone age? Screw that.

I don't think they're suggesting anything of the sort. Just that, in the long run -- think about how young the internet still is -- computing is going to make up a larger and larger part of our carbon footprint as well as our consumption of non-renewable energy sources. We pay attention to how green our cars and our power plants (although we clearly need to do a better job with coal) are. We have to pay attention to the greenness of the infrastructure of the internet, too. Of course we shouldn't shut it down, but it's equally ridiculous to say, "OMG, it's the internet. I don't care how much it pollutes the world, I have to have it." Computing needs to get greener like everything else.

Theophany
Jan 15, 2009, 11:18 AM
I don't think they're suggesting anything of the sort. Just that, in the long run -- think about how young the internet still is -- computing is going to make up a larger and larger part of our carbon footprint as well as our consumption of non-renewable energy sources. We pay attention to how green our cars and our power plants (although we clearly need to do a better job with coal) are. We have to pay attention to the greenness of the infrastructure of the internet, too. Of course we shouldn't shut it down, but it's equally ridiculous to say, "OMG, it's the internet. I don't care how much it pollutes the world, I have to have it." Computing needs to get greener like everything else.

Well sure, if you believe that the environmentalists are right... Personally, if I'm paying for it, I don't really mind - I get taxed into oblivion for my environmentally unacceptable choices, that eases my conscience on the matter :)

rdowns
Jan 15, 2009, 12:03 PM
Friggin' green people are approaching PETA people on my pissed off scale.

bartelby
Jan 15, 2009, 12:04 PM
Friggin' green people are approaching PETA people on my pissed off scale.

I've done some googling to see if I can find any evidence of this but failed. I'll try googling again later though...:D

localoid
Jan 15, 2009, 01:20 PM
I don't think they're suggesting anything of the sort. Just that, in the long run -- think about how young the internet still is -- computing is going to make up a larger and larger part of our carbon footprint as well as our consumption of non-renewable energy sources. We pay attention to how green our cars and our power plants (although we clearly need to do a better job with coal) are. We have to pay attention to the greenness of the infrastructure of the internet, too. Of course we shouldn't shut it down, but it's equally ridiculous to say, "OMG, it's the internet. I don't care how much it pollutes the world, I have to have it." Computing needs to get greener like everything else.

Google's been working ways to reduce their power bill for some time (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/06/carbon-neutrality-by-end-of-2007.html) now...