Is Google polluting the Globe?

Google have been in the spotlight of an investigation regarding energy costs, stating that Google releases roughly as much carbon dioxide into the ozone in two Google searches, as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea. This all sounds like very little, but when you add it all up, including more than 200 million searches a day, that asks the question, how much does 'googling' hurt the environment?

The concern is not Google polluting the environment, but the increasing demand for energy that Google craves to operate its massive data centers, the energy needs to be created somewhere. For every second we stay connected to the internet, we produce 0.02g of carbon emissions, says Alex Wissner, a US physicist.

Google has since replied to the article, mentioning that for Google to be as fast and reliable as it is, so the need for mass data centers is required to beat competitors on the internet. To help break the numbers down, a typical Google search will last 0.2 seconds, the query is sent to and processed by the servers with just a few thousandths of a second. Google claims its servers only use 0.0003 (1 kJ) kWh per search, while the average adult needs 8000 kJ a day of energy from food.

One Google search in terms of greenhouse gases (CO2), releases roughly 0.2 grams into the ozone, while the standard EU for tailpipe emissions allows up to 140 grams of CO2 per kilometer. The average car doesn't reach these levels, giving off roughly 0.6 grams per kilometer driven produces as much greenhouse gases as a thousand Google searches.

In 2008, Google invested $45 million in breakthrough clean energy technologies, and in 2007, co-founded the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a group that is dedicated to cutting computer energy costs in half by 2010, reducing CO2 emissions by 54 million tons per year.

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Agreed. But the problem with energy isn't how much we are using. It's how we are generating it. As a short term solution, while we are still burning fossil fuels like it's 1899, conservation helps to be sure. But if we "generated" energy in saner ways (solar, wind, geothermal, and even nuclear) there'd be no (or in the case of nuclear, neglible) impact on the environment no matter how much energy we used. But the world economy (especially the US, which was build on oil transport) is going to fight tooth and nail to keep from giving away (real energy is free) what they have gotten us so used to paying them for (fossil fuels).

It's impossible to have zero environmental impact. I'd be more concerned about say, excessive plastic packaging than a data center that the entire planet uses on a daily basis consuming electricity. There a more important things to concern yourself with than this.

And don't worry about plastic packaging. We're NOT running out of landfill. That was based on a proven corrupt and inaccurate 1970's EPA study.

Now, converting the world to solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear power? That's a fight worth having.

excalpius said,
And don't worry about plastic packaging. We're NOT running out of landfill. That was based on a proven corrupt and inaccurate 1970's EPA study.

Now, converting the world to solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear power? That's a fight worth having. :)


The US might not be running out of landfill, but the US isn't the world, and has a hugely lower population density. Countries like the UK do have such problems though.

An excellent point, Kirkburn. Though I suspect that even the UK's landfill "problem" is exaggerated by the same forces that have done so in the US, namely organized crime. In the US, they handle waste disposal, and by promoting recycling initiatives (which are bad for the Earth in every case except Aluminum cans) they cause more taxpayers dollars to, yes, go into THEIR pockets. Only Aluminum takes less energy to recycle that to create from scratch. Everything else puts more carbon in the air, takes more energy to recycle, and is an utter waste of environmental and taxpayer resources. But organized crime is making a fortune in taxpayer graft just so we can "feel like we are doing something helpful" even though that was just a sales gimmick we all fell for...and many still are.

BS. Switch to clean energy technologies and the Earth will eventually reach equilibrium again. The only question is how long and will we survive as a species long enough to undo the damage we have done.

It really is typical people trying to say Google is hurting the environment when the average car would use up much more.

Its the United States overall.

What's Google's motto again? It's been so long since they did anything remotely inline with it, I kinda forgot...

Yeah, Google is truly the leader in pollution.

Their underground slave base where hundreds of thousands employees work to read your Gmail inbox produces massive amounts of pollution. Of course, making sure those ads target you properly is of most importance, even if they're only right maybe half the time.

They have attempted to reduce this pollution though. Their employees are now fed with a proper dietary supplement so they produce less body waste, and their seats are now mounted to the ground acting as a sort of "porter potty" at the desk, increasing productivity by reducing the time spent walking to the restrooms.

This accusation is just a facade created by Google. It is clear that IT industry can pollute in several ways but production CO2.

How many server Google owns and keep running ?.
More that a million.

So
How much energy those million of server is needing?. A lot, its mean more coal, gas and nuclear material is used to produce energy.

How much efficient is the server recycling of Google?. Let's say if this service was 90% efficient (Google say it is around 100% but of course is a lie), then :
1 million server, the lifespan of a server is around 5 year, so Google is swapping 200'000 server x year, or around 20'000 server as a electronic garbage x year (10% is garbage). Plus Google must buy a new batch of server, usually in a couple of industries in China that really don't care about pollution.

So, directly Google is not polluting but indirectly is a serious deal.

And the worst part, Google say they use 0.0003 (1 kJ) kWh per search, while the reality Google uses almost the same amount of energy even without any search.

And how does that 1 million computers compare to the computer use worldwide? It's a fraction of a fraction of a fraction and thus this is just negligible hype by some wanna-be academic with a self-promoting agenda.

Don't forget that humans only create less then 1% of the total green house gases, including CO2, and any change by us means NOTHING. Do the math, it doesn't mean anything, at best we could remove 3-5 parts per million, leaving the other 300+ parts per million.

How much did the so called research spend in CO2, and should we really care?

C_Guy said,
That would be hilarious if you weren't trying to pass it off as fact...


Facts are Facts, the UN another others have accepted the numbers, and even published the 300-350 parts per million as the total CO2, if you want some more details check out http://inconvenienttruth.us/

thejohnnyq said,
Don't forget that humans only create less then 1% of the total green house gases, including CO2, and any change by us means NOTHING. Do the math, it doesn't mean anything, at best we could remove 3-5 parts per million, leaving the other 300+ parts per million.

This is a joke, I know that there are many claims against global warming but you argument is flawed. For example...

Take a currently stable system - say fill a cup to the top with water.
Now add 1% more mater to the system
System Fails

Oh dear, Quick! lets turn the internet off and drive down to our local library instead.

Sure it uses energy - but its still better than alternatives.

Thinking about this more seriously... I wonder what the runnings of a library are compared to this, heating/cooling, electric, embodied energy in books or computer etc. etc. And similary traveling to and from librarys. Of course even if google is better per search (compared to finding it in ur library) it still poses the issue that most searches on google are probably things you would never ask if the internet didnt exist.

More "New World Order" Single Global Government, Single Global Banking / Taxation, Climate Change c*r*a*p*.

There is mayhem all around the world, government waste and squander trillions of their currency, and we are being told that our Internet searches (provided by Google at no cost to the end user) cost huge amounts of energy. Total bol|ocks!

This is yet another deceitful move to tax and control Internet usage. Don't believe it sheeple. If your government is promoting this rubbish, they will soon be declaring war (Martial Law) on you. This world belongs to all of us, not the government, corporations and the banksters.

People need to wake up to this Rothschild / Rockefeller / Bilderberg / CFR / Davos agenda. They want to enslave us all, and are using the media to brainwash us all. Read George Orwell's 1984 now!

excalpius said,
Take your meds.

Did he miss anything, or is "take your meds" some ghetto slang for "Oh ****, this guy could be right and I just don't want to do anything at all to help out the world because I'm comfortable in my little ignorant hole!"

The world is changing. Wake up.

"Take your meds" is slang for "this person clearly has a mental health issue, please get help". If you believe he's playing with a full deck...get some help yourself.

@Eis. You'll find that Bush's gross graft and corruption of everything we stand for does not need the support of paranoid schizophrenics who believe in the NWO, "9-11 was an inside job", and the other crazy talk conspiracy theories. Learn the way the world REALLY works (greed, self-interest, cronyism, bribery, etc.) and you'll help to affect change without becoming a "truther" nutter.

Remember, this sort of hype study is how academics keep their jobs and grant funding. I'm all for greener computers for everyone (a Google server farm is a fraction of the number of computers in use in any given town, for example), but this sort of thing is just irrelevant, self-serving academic drivel.

interesting article but you cant single out google for stuff like this as im sure there's far worse stuff to worry about in the world.

that 'global warming' stuff i think is exaggerated cause some people say it's the earths natural cycle to do what it's doing.

Exactly. The Earth is warming anyway, because we're actually still coming out of the last ice age. The argument is whether or not we're speeding that warming up.

I'd argue that we probably ARE speeding it up, but by how much is the big question. However, blaming Google for it is stupid. The power stations would be generating that electricity anyway, whether it was Google using it or not. So the solution rests at the power station end, not the consumer end.

"Global warming" was a bad name for it. We are causing "Global Climate Change" which manifests itself in more extreme weather and atypical weather patterns. Just note snow in Las Vegas or how Southern California and Ontario, Canada had the exact same temperature on Christmas for examples of the real affect we are having on the planet.

Yes, FloatingFatMan is right, we are currently at the peak of temperature the world should be in (the ice age cycle that repeats ~100 thousand years and varies by 6 degress!). Also the earth temperate is known to fluctuate massively. Reports that say the earth is warming up are highly selective and deliberately misleading as most statistical information. They don't include the pastfew years (as I believe the temp has dropped) and then just use a few years prior to that when it did warm - again neglecting the ones prior to that where it didn't warm either.

There is no conclusive information to prove global warming exists, all that has been proved is that in a laboratory, in a closed environment, methane, CO2 etc. are able to trap heat. This is hardly conclusive due to the extreme complexity of our planet.

The answer is though its possible not to create these harmful gases - so we might as well, just incase.

The real answer to why oil companies are starting to look for alternative is because of increased energy prices and reduced fuel supplies. Money is the reason, it always has been.

ThaCrip said,
you cant single out google for stuff like this as im sure there's far worse stuff to worry about in the world.

that 'global warming' stuff i think is exaggerated cause some people say it's the earths natural cycle to do what it's doing.


You seem pretty sure of that. Looks like you've done lots of research.

mmck said,

Please note, anomalous results are not a sign of the overall trend being wrong. As you state, the planet is complex, so you can't expect year-on-year warming, without fail.

Google was singled out because most people know about it. If they did the same for Live Search, far fewer people would care (or understand). At no point did the researcher single out Google as being worst. In fact he said:

"Google isn't any worse than any other data centre operator. If you want to supply really great and fast result, then that's going to take extra energy to do so"

Doesn't anyone even think before posting a "study" like this? What are businesses supposed to do, just shut down and not use any electricity? I could see if there were clouds of smog covering Mountain View, but since there isn't, there's really no reason to complain. Google as well as many other large corporations provide some of the most useful resources to the entire world, and to throw ambiguous statistics around and call them bad is outright ridiculous. If these "investigators" want to do something useful, they shouldn't try to turn people against companies for no good reason.

Or maybe I was wrong, and he's actually defending Google because boiling water doesn't emit any CO2.

Raikou Tch said,
Or maybe I was wrong, and he's actually defending Google because boiling water doesn't emit any CO2.

Well done on completely misunderstanding what CO2 emission statistics mean.

It is talking about the equivalent emissions created when producing the energy to boil that kettle - i.e. at the power plant.

The implied suggestion is not that companies close down, but that they should try and use less energy. How is that not obvious?

In addition he did not call them "bad", or specifically call them out as being "the worst". Read the article.

If you pick on Google you gotta pick on every bigger web entity, let alone other way bigger polluters and users/consumers thereof. This is just pointless and everybody jumping on this "news" bandwagon today makes it plain stupid. Nobody really gives a **** about these numbers and cutesy little repetitive comparisons in each of these "news" today because no author can manage to calc. up something different.

If you're oh so concerned about the environment, do it the ultimate favor and go live in the woods.

I'll do some Google searches while boiling me some water for tea just so I can **** the earth double hard. Carbon footprint, hell yeah!

GEIST said,
If you pick on Google you gotta pick on every bigger web entity, let alone other way bigger polluters and users/consumers thereof. This is just pointless and everybody jumping on this "news" bandwagon today makes it plain stupid. Nobody really gives a **** about these numbers and cutesy little repetitive comparisons in each of these "news" today because no author can manage to calc. up something different.

If you're oh so concerned about the environment, do it the ultimate favor and go live in the woods.

I'll do some Google searches while boiling me some water for tea just so I can **** the earth double hard. Carbon footprint, hell yeah!


Important quotes from the sources:

"according to a Harvard University academic [Dr Wissner-Gross]", "A recent study by American research firm Gartner suggested that IT now causes two percent of global emissions."

Edit: unfortunately it seems that journalists exaggerated and misrepresented the claims. However, that doesn't excuse being an ass about the environment. You might not care, but I assure you, others do.

Really good article.

I'm a google fan boy though, and I just think the investigations is BS. Do they get on Microsofts butt about what they produce in the o-zone? what about Apple's???

And at least Google has put the effort into cutting carbon emissions.

I think that yahoo and live search are more heavy than google. When I search with google I don't even notice ads. When I go to yahoo or live I see tons of banners that are huge and they are using more bandwith than google ads.

A more accurate question would be.

Is big business polluting the globe?

And of course, the answer to that question is.. Yes. Why single Google out when it's business and industry as a WHOLE which is doing the polluting. The measly carbon emissions from Google aren't even noticeable compared to SOME corporations.

Mind you, the total sum of carbon emissions from mankind as a whole can barely be measured compared to amount emitted from natural sources; well, except maybe what comes out of politicians yaps...

FloatingFatMan said,
Why single Google out when it's business and industry as a WHOLE which is doing the polluting.

I think the idea was to put the usage in more familiar terms. (However, that seems to have backfired as the usage looks to have been incredibly overestimated).

webeagle12 said,
jesus too many numbers bah

Oh how terrible. The world isn't nice and simple, I'm sorry.

Articles shouldn't be simplified just because they include real data.

Electronics are polluting the globe, using this reasoning. Why restrict it to Google? Any datacenter that requires more resources due to being assigned any kind of task will require more electricity.

The problem does not lie at Google, but how we gain such electricity. If it's about releasing stored and limited energy with CO2 as a byproduct (fossil fuels), it's worse than if using renewable and cleaner sources. That's the issue we should attack here. Google's commitment to funding such alternatives for energy is at least good; that's pretty much the only direction we can go. Sure, we can ask Google to serve users with less requests per day, and to a limited extent optimize the CPU usage, but that's not a real viable solution. Google has probably already optimized the queries and resource usage quite a bit, because it lies in their own interests to reduce the CPU and energy cost, as that equates to money in the end for Google.

Jugalator said,
Electronics are polluting the globe, using this reasoning. Why restrict it to Google?

Because Google is a big money making company and any company making lots of money becomes a target for this sort of BS. [sarcasm]Those evil companies. They have to be stopped so they can't employ people anymore.[/sarcasm]

Beastage said,
Educating read.

Not really, when you consider "boiling a kettle for a cup of tea" releases no carbon dioxide. Water to gas form does not convert to carbon dioxide.

Perhaps they meant "the fuel burn off to boil a kettle of water". But they didn't say that - they implied water boiling turns to carbon dioxide.

Rohdekill said,
Not really, when you consider "boiling a kettle for a cup of tea" releases no carbon dioxide. Water to gas form does not convert to carbon dioxide.

Perhaps they meant "the fuel burn off to boil a kettle of water". But they didn't say that - they implied water boiling turns to carbon dioxide.


you are taking it to literally... i'm pretty sure they meant from the energy used to boil that kettle. who knows where that energy came from, perhaps a coal burning power plant?

some_guy said,

you are taking it to literally... i'm pretty sure they meant from the energy used to boil that kettle. who knows where that energy came from, perhaps a coal burning power plant?

Or an hydro-electric power plant ... oh wait ... damn

Rohdekill said,
Not really, when you consider "boiling a kettle for a cup of tea" releases no carbon dioxide. Water to gas form does not convert to carbon dioxide.

Perhaps they meant "the fuel burn off to boil a kettle of water". But they didn't say that - they implied water boiling turns to carbon dioxide.


You're correct.

All this scare-mongering really winds me up.

Carbon foot print this, carbon footprint that, whilst the populations get larger and more and more rainforest's are depleted of course we will have a surplus of carbon dioxide gas.

Nature is a good balance, I wonder if n00bs blamed (sarcasm) google when the ice age was upon us.

If we cut down on farting and planted more trees, then hey everything will be alright!

leesmithg said,


You're correct.

All this scare-mongering really winds me up.

Carbon foot print this, carbon footprint that, whilst the populations get larger and more and more rainforest's are depleted of course we will have a surplus of carbon dioxide gas.

Nature is a good balance, I wonder if n00bs blamed (sarcasm) google when the ice age was upon us.

If we cut down on farting and planted more trees, then hey everything will be alright!

They didn't imply that at all:

"Google releases roughly as much carbon dioxide into the ozone in two Google searches, as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea"

If you assume they're talking about the actual water boiling releasing CO2 in that sentence you must also infer that Google is directly releasing CO2 directly from their servers as exhaust, which is obviously not the case.

leesmithg said,
You're correct.

All this scare-mongering really winds me up.

Carbon foot print this, carbon footprint that, whilst the populations get larger and more and more rainforest's are depleted of course we will have a surplus of carbon dioxide gas.

Nature is a good balance, I wonder if n00bs blamed (sarcasm) google when the ice age was upon us.

If we cut down on farting and planted more trees, then hey everything will be alright!


Ah, conspiracy theorists are hilarious... lots of complaining about everyone supposedly lying, yet no actual argument or logic.