Google searches are costly to the environment, experts say

Google searches are costly to the environment, experts say

IF you want to help save the planet from carbon carnage, cut your Google searches, scientists say.

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, The Australian reports.

While millions of people tap into Google without a thought for 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.”

Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint.

It also refuses to divulge the locations of its dozens of data centres.

However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally every day, the level of electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern.

A recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines – about 2 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

“Data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

Banks of servers storing billions of web pages require power both to run and cool them.

Though Google says it is in the forefront of green computing, its search engine generates high levels of CO2 because of the way it operates.

When you type in a Google search for, say, “energy saving tips”, your request doesn’t go to just one server.

It goes to several competing against each other. It may even be sent to servers thousands of miles apart.

Google’s infrastructure sends you data from whichever produces the answer fastest. The system minimises delays but raises energy consumption.

Google has servers in the US, Europe, Japan and China. Wissner-Gross has submitted his research for publication by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and has also set up a website

“Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,” he said. Google said: “We are among the most efficient of all internet search providers.”

Wissner-Gross has also calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the internet.

His research indicates that viewing a simple website page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second.

This rises about tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos.

From The Times of London in The Australian

UPDATE: Google Australia told it has built the most energy-efficient data centres in the world.

“Our data centres use considerably less energy for the servers themselves, and much less energy for cooling, than a typical data centre. As a result, the energy used per Google search is minimal. In fact, in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than we will use to answer your query. For more information, readers can visit


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