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The Environmental Impact of Google Searches

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the compounding-wild-ass-guesses dept.

Earth 516

paleshadows writes "The Times Online reports that researchers claim that each query submitted to Google has a quantifiable impact. Specifically, two queries performed through a desktop computer generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a cup of tea. From the article: 'While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 [whereas] boiling a kettle generates about 15g [...] Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centers. However, with more than 200m Internet searches estimated daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the Internet is provoking concern. A recent report [argues that] the global IT industry generate[s] as much greenhouse gas as the world's airlines — about 2% of global CO2 emissions.'" Google makes an interesting focus for such claims, but similar extrapolations have been done before about, for instance, the energy costs of sending a short email.

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Wrong Comparison (5, Insightful)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410475)

Were there not a Google (or internet equivalent), I wouldn't sit back in my rocking chair, exclaim "Oh, well," and have a cup or two of tea. Instead, I'd get in my car and drive to the library to look whatever it was up in a reference book, or search the catalog for a book I could borrow on the topic.

In that way, Google (or equivalent) saves energy.

Now that said, I expect Google to do their best to minimize energy consumption. Given that their electricity costs directly hit their cost of doing business, I suspect they agree with this goal.

Re:Wrong Comparison (3, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410497)

Given that their electricity costs directly hit their cost of doing business, I suspect they agree with this goal.

Google locates a lot of datacenter capacity in areas served by hydroelectric power.

Re:Wrong Comparison (3, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410595)

Not to mention they're VERY close to the power source, which means very little power is wasted in the transmission/transmission lines. The signal from the data center to your ISP is a photon so there's very little transmission loss until it gets to the last mile. Really it's up to the consumer to have a energy efficient computer more than anything else.

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411081)

You do know that power is not always 110/250V AC? Or less for data communication.

Power is transmitted at 110kV or above, which over a couple of thousand kilo meters equates to a couple of Ohms maximum. Power lines loose more electricity than your home internal wiring. Energy loss for electricity is only in the last mile too.

If fibre optic was not invented, I'm sure the voltage would be stepped up and back down between data centres to minimise energy loss.

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410627)

Hydro power may be cheaper than fossil fuel, but it's not free. Same goes for its carbon footprint.

If you're going to quote the Retief stories in your sig, how about something that conveys their droll sense of humor. My favorite: "Elevate your manipulative member above your sense organ cluster!" And of course, anything by those weird aliens who never use verbs.

Mod Up (1, Flamebait)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410851)

I live in an area where a lot of hydropower is generated, and it has a very definite negative environmental impact. We locals pay for it in many ways.

I marvel at how many people seem to think that hydropower is "clean and renewable", with few environmental effects. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What about the recreational opportunities we lose, and the huge potential income from same, when a river is dammed?

What about the loss of existing environment? Including drowned farms and forests.

What about loss of wildlife habitat? Salmon and waterfowl are only the tip of the iceberg. Fewer farms means fewer deer and rodents grazing the fields. Less forest means loss of habitat for those as well as a great many other species. Which all in turn means fewer top-level predators such as osprey, eagles, bear, cougar.

Which are more valuable to our overall environment? A few less cubic feet of CO2, or a few more salmon, a couple of ducks, some crayfish and a sturgeon?

People, please do some research before making assumptions about different forms of power generation. Depending on where you are, YOU might not have to live with the consequences in the short term, but we all have to live with them in the long term.

And, by the way, PLEASE do some research about the CO2-based warming model, which has so many serious flaws that its predictive capacity is actually near zero. Try paying attention to the science rather than all the hype.

Re:Mod Up (1)

shog9 (154858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410933)

Not to mention all those power boats that'll flock to the newly-created reservoir.

...And the carbon dioxide produced in the breweries brewing beer for all those power-boat boaters to drink while boating.

Re:Mod Up (0, Troll)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410983)

Sounds like your the victim of poor engineering, not hydroelectric power.

And to nitpick the article:

...with more than 200m Internet searches estimated daily...

If you mean million, say million, not meters. Are you recommending the search field be restricted in size?

Re:Mod Up (1)

narcberry (1328009) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411005)

Yeah, I just pulled out my english-nazi stick for using the wrong units, and made the unforgivable error of transposing you're with your.

Still, I'm keeping my nerd card, as one clearly trumps the other.

Re:Mod Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26411013)

And, by the way, PLEASE do some research about the CO2-based warming model, which has so many serious flaws that its predictive capacity is actually near zero. Try paying attention to the science rather than all the hype.

The conventional wisdom is that CO2 is causing global warming. That is to say, the "ordinary" position is one of the "hype."

When you make a claim contrary to conventional wisdom -- that is to say, and "extra-ordinary" claim -- then the onus is on you to provide evidence. You don't even have to make it awesomely excellent evidence, since this is /. A real link to a real study would be enough.

"Go do some research" is not enough. Especially when there's an awful lot of "research" on C02 warming that fails the sink test.

(And, on a side note, even if the model has little predictive capacity the underlying principle may in fact be very sound. Our model of the universe has zero predictave capacity when it comes to extrasolar asteroids coming right for us, but we know the physics down to a microgram.)

Re:Mod Up (2, Interesting)

tenco (773732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411045)

Which are more valuable to our overall environment? A few less cubic feet of CO2, or a few more salmon, a couple of ducks, some crayfish and a sturgeon?

I would say the former. Increased levels of greenhouse gases will have a far more global consequences and cause global damage than building a few damms here and there. The power has to be generated somewhere. IMHO it's a sensible and logical choice to trade local landscape change for global climate change.

Something they completely missed (5, Funny)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411077)

If I do enough google searches, the amount of emissions required to boil my kettle is reduced as the water is warmer to start with thanks to global warming..

Re:Wrong Comparison (3, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410717)

Tell the guy who made that research :

"Google refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres"

So basically he doesn't know whether their datacentres are plugged into coal power plants or nuclear plants, he's just making wild assumptions?

"When you type in a Google search for, say, âoeenergy saving tipsâ, your request doesnâ(TM)t go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other."

Wow, that was a pretty fucking lame way to make it sound energy-inefficient. As if it consumed more energy because a single search goes through many different computers.. Plus it's making it sound like Google gets the job done redundantly and you get the result from whichever does the job the fastest, which is obviously balls. And by balls I mean misleading.

"Simply running a PC generates between 40g and 80g per hour"

That's funny because mine generates 0g per hour. It's called nuclear power.

"Last week Stephen Fry, the TV presenter, was posting "tweets" from New Zealand, imparting such vital information as..."

OMG Stephen Fry you bastard how dare you emit gasses to inform us of your adventures around the globe! Let's overlook the fact that most of electricity in New Zealand is produced by hydropower stations.

Is it me or is the point of this article "feel guilty for doing anything with your computer 'cause it ruins the planet thank you very much you bastard"? while acting like using power is inherently polluting whereas it really depends on the source?

Re:Wrong Comparison (5, Funny)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410839)

The Google servers should be made of wood, just as God intended.

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

Bombula (670389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411031)

"Simply running a PC generates between 40g and 80g per hour"

I call total BS on this too. My PC is rated for a peak power draw of 400 watts. At idle the wattage is under 50 and with casual usage it's probably not doing more than 100. It'd be a stretch to boil five kettles of water in an hour with 100 watts.

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410915)

Google locates a lot of datacenter capacity in areas served by hydroelectric power.

Is this very significant if it's still using electricity that would otherwise be in the grid for others to use? Google's use of electricity probably just contributes to more coal-fired power plants being powered up elsewhere.

Not that I think Google should immediately be considered the one at fault here unless it could be shown that their power use is somehow disproportinate compared with the benefit they provide when compared with other businesses. Saving electricity is a good way to reduce carbon emissions, but it might make much more sense to generate the electricity with less carbon emissions in the first place.

Re:Wrong Comparison (2, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410581)

It would be better if you rode the bus to the library. But that would be inconvenient. It says a lot about the issue that everybody (except all the kneejerk "skeptics" that will soon post on this story) cares about curbing greenhouse gases, but nobody is willing to make the troublesome lifestyle changes necessary to make a real difference. Instead, we nibble around the edges of the problem, with marginal changes like "shrinking our carbon footprint" (hence this story and the strong market for hybrid cars) and spending money on "offsets".

I personally boil my tea and coffee water in the microwave. I do this because it's fast, because it gets the water to exactly the right temperature (if you have one of those boiling water sensors in your oven) and because the calcium accumulation in a teakettle is gross. But it does reduce my carbon footprint, though I have no idea how much.

Re:Wrong Comparison (5, Informative)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410679)

It would be better if you rode the bus to the library. But that would be inconvenient. It says a lot about the issue that everybody (except all the kneejerk "skeptics" that will soon post on this story) cares about curbing greenhouse gases, but nobody is willing to make the troublesome lifestyle changes necessary to make a real difference.

My city doesn't have bus service. So yes, waiting for a bus would be incredibly inconvenient.

nobody is willing to make the troublesome lifestyle changes necessary to make a real difference.

Does this include you? People aren't going to make huge changes because, for the most part, that doesn't make a big difference. Everyone making a small change has a much, much bigger impact than just a few people (those unselfish enough to care) making a big change. Raising the minimum legal mileage for new cars by one MPG would be a much, much bigger change than me riding a bike to work every day. (Not that I could given the distance, nor could both me and my wife given how far apart we work no matter where we move.) I can choose to not buy another car until one that gets high mileage from an alternative fuel source is available, which is what I've been doing for the last few years.

I personally boil my tea and coffee water in the microwave.

I drink tap water at whatever temperature it comes out of the cold faucet. That reduces my carbon footprint further. =p

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410787)

It would be better if you rode the bus to the library. But that would be inconvenient. It says a lot about the issue that everybody (except all the kneejerk "skeptics" that will soon post on this story) cares about curbing greenhouse gases, but nobody is willing to make the troublesome lifestyle changes necessary to make a real difference.

My monthly Tri-Met pass says differently. Dick.

Re:Wrong Comparison (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410639)

I don't think individual queries actually consume this much extra energy.

They are estimating the total power consumption of google's infrastructure and dividing it by the number of search queries.

Google has ample spare capacity doing very little.

So the more searches that are performed, the less the energy consumption per search.

The methodology is flawwed... attributing consumption of infrastructure automatically to its users

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410703)

Ahh, I didn't RTFA. I assumed they were talking differential power from causing hard drive accesses, all the routers on the way having to process extra packets, etc.

Still, my original claim is accurate. Were Google not to exist, their infrastructure and base power consumption wouldn't either, and there would be an increase in road traffic.

Re:Wrong Comparison (3, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410901)

I think their main folly is that they don't distinguish between the power necessary to service requests vs. the total power used(which includes all the power it takes to index sites and store the results so they can be fetched quickly etc.) There is a big difference as the power required to index is relatively static and thus doesn't depend on the number of searches. In fact, the power per search using their methodology may actually drop the more searches that are performed because each search's share of the power required for indexing drops.

Re:Wrong Comparison (3, Interesting)

eof (33820) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410645)

Were there not a Google (or internet equivalent), I wouldn't sit back in my rocking chair, exclaim "Oh, well," and have a cup or two of tea. Instead, I'd get in my car and drive to the library to look whatever it was up in a reference book, or search the catalog for a book I could borrow on the topic.

In that way, Google (or equivalent) saves energy.

Now that said, I expect Google to do their best to minimize energy consumption. Given that their electricity costs directly hit their cost of doing business, I suspect they agree with this goal.

I'm inclined to agree. It's impossible to determine whether using Google results in a net savings or loss of energy/carbon/etc. when compared to the actions that would replace using Google. The article does go on to state that a relative comparison is more important than absolute values, but does so after a lot of rather accusatory language that sets the tone. Unfortunate.

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

Haoie (1277294) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410693)

I'm going to take a different approach and state that as long as your search turned up something useful to you, hopefully resulting in you learning something or getting somewhere, then it'd be worth a little more junk in the air.

And yes that applies to porn searches too. That's a social service [sorta].

Fuck this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410713)

Fuck this hippie junk. Just because of this article I'm going go write a Perl-script to do a few hundred searches an hour.

What the hell. I'm also going to replace my CFLs with 100-watt incandescents.

Re:Wrong Comparison (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410745)

Good point. Or maybe just as much to the point, even if you were doing things online, if not for Google, someone else would be doing the same thing. If no one were doing it, then it would just mean it would take you much longer to find the things you were looking for, which would arguably lead to you using more of other resources.

The point of the article seems to be that Google is optimizing for performance instead of energy consumption. Seems like a valid complaint, except that if their engine performed badly, they'd be out of business completely. I'm sure Google is trying to be as energy efficient as is reasonable, since wasted energy means wasted money. It may also be that, if Google weren't so dominant, then there would be multiple providers each doing the same thing, being even less efficient.

It seems like a better tact might be to try to pressure Google into using alternative energy sources. On the other hand, it's not at all clear to me how much control Google has over where their electricity comes from. Another option would be to pressure Intel (or whoever produces the hardware Google runs on) to make their products more energy efficient. But again, I'm pretty sure they're doing the best they can. If Intel could realistically produce drastic cuts to the power consumption of their chips, they'd do it because it would be a big competitive advantage. It's just not quite that simple.

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

Renderer of Evil (604742) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410759)

Were there not a Google (or internet equivalent), I wouldn't sit back in my rocking chair, exclaim "Oh, well," and have a cup or two of tea. Instead, I'd get in my car and drive to the library to look whatever it was up in a reference book, or search the catalog for a book I could borrow on the topic.

Libraries don't carry any books which can adequately address such queries as "boob punching videos" or "Photoshop keygen"

Re:Wrong Comparison (1)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410873)

Though you have a point, you've only made half of it. While they reduce the overall cost of the operation, they also reduce the cost to you--looking something up on google is far more convenient than driving to the library and looking something up, even if you amortize the trip across all the research you do while you're there. This reduced cost means you (the generic user, not "you" you) do far more searches on Google than you would trips to the library for the same information. So, while you're probably right that they're saving energy, it's very unlikely there's a one-to-one correspondence between Google searches and trips to the library in absence of a Google.

Re:Wrong Comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410891)

Were there not a Google (or internet equivalent), I wouldn't sit back in my rocking chair, exclaim "Oh, well," and have a cup or two of tea. Instead, I'd get in my car and drive to the library to look whatever it was up in a reference book, or search the catalog for a book I could borrow on the topic.

Not me. Without the internet's instant gratification most of my curiosity would be quite short-lived. Granted, most of my curiosity is quite idle and meritless.

Without the internet, however, I would watch a hell of a lot more TV.

Re:Wrong Comparison (2, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411093)

Carbon Footprint calculations are rather complicated. For any of you have worked on manufacturing systems it is much like a highly detailed BOM (Bill of Materials) that has calculations down to the finest details. And because the there are so many variables using your intuition or estimates undoubtedly makes your values way off.
For example if you buy lumber from local sources may have a higher carbon footprint then lumber that you buy overseas. Yes there is a carbon cost of shipping the lumber across the ocean, however they may have better process of logging and replacing trees that they cut down in the other country, also they may be logging right next to the barge, or rail line, Vs. having to ship smaller quantities cross your state.

That explains it (4, Funny)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410477)

the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a cup of tea

That explains the infinite improbability factor that gives links to pron sites from nearly every innocent search.

Re:That explains it (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410589)

the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a cup of tea

That explains the infinite improbability factor that gives links to pron sites from nearly every innocent search.

Google must employ somebody to keep the cup of tea warm otherwise their search tool will stop delivering results.

Actual Impact? (2, Insightful)

perlhacker14 (1056902) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410493)

I find it somewhat hard to believe that this study will change anything; the number of searches are not going to decrease, and people are probably not going to stop drinking tea. So even if each search released fifteen times more CO2, would that change anything?

Re:Actual Impact? (2, Informative)

kaiidth (104315) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410683)

This may be excessively cynical, but I regularly get these studies quoted at me and have come to believe that, whilst there is clearly sanity in reducing energy usage as far as possible without impairing needed performance, there is also a couple of other motivations driving much of this stuff. One is the fact that, like it or not, this sort of thing attracts funding, and another is the overwhelming urge to demonstrate that you're a nice PC green believer in saving the planet.

The problem is, as you say, that many of these studies generate numbers that are of little relevance to the real world and are designed more to produce publicity and hence help push relatively meaningless initiatives than to highlight any real potential for improvement. Now I'm off to boil the kettle -- and if they don't like it, they can build and sell a more efficient means of heating water.

Re:Actual Impact? (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410825)

It's clear these studies do generate a lot of hot air. How much, well, that's a little hard to quantify.

As much as airlines? (3, Insightful)

AaxelB (1034884) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410505)

A recent report [argues that] the global IT industry generate[s] as much greenhouse gas as the world's airlines â" about 2% of global CO2 emissions.

Oh, that's not bad. Considering how huge a positive impact the IT industry has, that honestly seems like a relatively acceptable amount. And I'd rather have two googles than a cup of tea any day.

Who the fuck boils tea? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410519)

Oh wait. those weirdos in the eu.

yeah. article sounds like some crap they'd post.

fuck you limey brits. i like google way more than i like tea. or the earth.

Bah.... That's nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410525)

Searching via google may have an impact. Searching booble.com most definitely causes an increase of emissions.

Good Lord... (3, Insightful)

imamac (1083405) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410533)

Let's just shut down every piece of modern technology and revert to a hunter-gatherer civilization. Will that make the enviornmentalists finally shut up? Why not stop people from breathing too, since that produces C02.

Re:Good Lord... (5, Insightful)

iNaya (1049686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410607)

There is no way the Earth could possibly support 7 billion hunter gatherers. To do that, we would need to cull our population to about 1.000.000, or our food supply would run out in very short order. We'd probably hunt EVERY SINGLE species on Earth to extinction, if we didn't eat their food source first.

Re:Good Lord... (1)

oblivinated (1001921) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411085)

Easy. We'll hunt each other.

Re:Good Lord... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410631)

In fact, there are environmentalists who do claim they think the world would be better off without people. There is a point where environmentalism changes from prudent concern to misanthropy.

You think like a ReThuglican Jew (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410697)

You think like a ReThuglican Jew

Re:Good Lord... (5, Funny)

edumacator (910819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410767)

Let's just shut down every piece of modern technology and revert to a hunter-gatherer civilization. Will that make the enviornmentalists finally shut up?

Nope. Then we'd be eating the animals, and that is not okay.

Re:Good Lord... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410801)

When was quantitative research the same as whining? Are you suggesting we should stop researching things or just not publish the research that offends you?

Re:Good Lord... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410905)

Basically everyone should just plain die, then that will make the environmentalists finally shut up.

Re:Good Lord... (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410987)

You first, Tharg.

Just 200 million searches? (3, Insightful)

Athrac (931987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410539)

That doesn't sound right to me. Must be at least ten times that.

How long should I hold my breath? (2, Funny)

txoof (553270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410541)

According to my google search history [google.com] I am responsible for about 112 kg of carbon. I wonder how long I have to hold my breath to off set that.

Re:How long should I hold my breath? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410573)

Start holding now, we'll tell you when to stop.... =) j/k

Cups of tea, sympathy and Blackle! (0, Redundant)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410549)

You insensitive clods!

In other news: Use http://blackle.com/ [blackle.com] if you are interested in combining a search with saving power. Sure, it might run the same amount of power from the server end, but at least it's not using as much power to display the results.

Re:Cups of tea, sympathy and Blackle! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410619)

It uses a tiny bit more power on LCDs.

Re:Cups of tea, sympathy and Blackle! (1)

danknight (570145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410731)

Crap, you mean I gotta go lug my dual 21' sun monitors back from the basement ? This Global warming thing is getting way too confusing !

Re:Cups of tea, sympathy and Blackle! (1)

danknight (570145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410695)

Dear god, what's next blackdot.org ??

Blackle exploits ignorance. (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410955)

Blackle's energy saving claims are bullshit - based on the idea that CRT monitors (who's using those any more?) use less power when showing black than white - something that was found in a study in the Dark Ages of monitors - 2002 or so.

Blackle thus exploits ignorance to get traffic and Google ad hits (ie. revenue).

Quite likely Blackle is also selling their supposed carbon saving as carbon offsets. Their "We've saved xxxx Watt hours" can be exchanged for money.

mandatory carbon credit purchases coming (4, Insightful)

Hanzie (16075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410553)

I expect our shiny new government is going to start taxing us on carbon soon. They are throwing money at failing businesses by the billions, while the tax base is collapsing. They are going to need to try to replace that cash somehow.

Knee-jerk reactions (1, Offtopic)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410561)

This kind of news leads to a CO2 (and unfortunately methane) emitting knee-jerk reaction - That study must have been payed by M$.

Re:Knee-jerk reactions (2, Insightful)

nixkuroi (569546) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410671)

Right, because Microsoft would benefit from people using computers less.

Re:Knee-jerk reactions (1)

iNaya (1049686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410741)

I'm not sure if I hope you're joking or not...

Regardless, I find the content of the article very badly, and unscientifically based. For instance, it's not considering the opportunity cost, that is, what would happen if one wasn't doing those two Google searches... driving to the library? Walking to the library? Yes, even walking uses up extra CO2.

Also the cost of the electricity most likely wouldn't increase anywhere near as much as they say. 2 searches = a boiled kettle. What utter nonsense! The power is also used to keep the computers on regardless of searches, and to be able to handle a heavily increased load of searches. I would vouch that if searches suddenly doubled, the servers are already prepared AND they would use almost no extra energy, percentage wise.

As for saying that it was paid for by Microsoft, well, that would hurt Microsoft's bottom line in more than one way. I would hazard a guess that the MS servers use much more power than Google's.

I don't buy it... (4, Interesting)

quibbler (175041) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410567)

I'd like to see the in-depth math on this, I don't buy these numbers, its smells of environmental-shock-value reasoning... Example - if they are dividing the total power used by google by the number of searches, that would only be applicable if google were working at 100% capacity and if *all* they did was searches...

This is kinda like the Greenpeace founder who hated nuclear power till they read a freaking book. Boo.

Re:I don't buy it... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410715)

Google claims to use less energy than the user during the search:

http://www.google.com/intl/en/corporate/datacenters/

"The graph below shows that our Google-designed data centers use considerably less energy - both for the servers and the facility itself - than a typical data center. 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."

The researcher claims that surfing produces 0.02g of CO2 per second.

Re:I don't buy it... (1)

iNaya (1049686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410779)

Completely agreed. Unfortunately I used up all my mod points in the IT Jobs article :-(

I find it quite amusing that many "green"s would prefer hydro (environment destroying), coal (CO2 + dirty) etc. over nuclear (very little space taken, no "greenhouse" gasses, radiation no way near as destructive as people make believe).

And yeah, I completely miss the point of this guy's research. What's he trying to do? Tell Google that they should be saving on electricity COSTS? Like they aren't already putting effort into that or something. Or is he trying to convince everyone to do less web searches?

Re:I don't buy it... (5, Interesting)

LeDopore (898286) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410859)

You're right. Here's some math:

250g water in a cup of tea.
Specific heat of water = 4186 J/kg/(degree C). (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific_heat_capacity [wikipedia.org] ).
80 Celsius degree change from room temperature to boiling.

To boil a teacup's worth of water, therefore it takes ~80 kJ.

For this to be twice the energy consumed with one search, that's ~40 kJ per search.

If a search takes Google about 100 ms, that means Google would be using 400 kW while responding to your search. That feels like it's about 3 orders of magnitude too high. It's possible that the original researchers got Calories and kCal confused.

Drink less tea then... (5, Funny)

nixkuroi (569546) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410583)

Time to have a global boston tea party and dump all the tea into the ocean. With roughly 2-3 billion less tea drinkers in the world, think of how many more searches we can do without impacting the environment! And think of those who drink multiple glasses. It's like a critical hit against tea/energy expense. Booyah! problem solved.

Re:Drink less tea then... (1)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410821)

Don't drop tea in the ocean...

The temperature of the ocean will raise and you will melt all the polar ice!

Re:Drink less tea then... (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410973)

Better yet, let's do what we're the best at doing and let's create an antagonism! Tea drinkers have been ruining our atmosphere for too long. Should we let them keep on participating to the destruction of our planet for the sake of preserving their sick habit? Or should we force them to stop drinking tea by all means and kill those who don't (and bury them in airtight bags, to avoid, you know, the gas emissions).

You're either with Earth or against Earth! Letting people drink tea would be like letting the tea drinkers win! Think of our children! This world will be a better place if we send tea drinkers to an even better place!

Highly recommended article on energy & informa (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410621)

Of course, clicking on the following might lead to seven more grams of carbon dioxide being generated . . ..

Ultimate Physical Limits to Computation

http://physics.princeton.edu/~mcdonald/examples/QM/lloyd_nature_406_1047_00.pdf [princeton.edu] (pdf warning, obviously)

An old email relating to carbon footprint of data (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410635)

I'm on this advisory group of 6 people and we wanted to participate in a 2 day conference by flying a representative there or through video conferencing. For some reason the carbon footprint argument was used IN SUPPORT of flying because of that recent news about data-centres being polluters. There was news that IT are going to be the 2nd largest cause of pollution in a few years, and therefore flying was somehow comparably damaging to IT.

I thought that this was against common sense, but it was surprisingly difficult to understand the difference. If an ISP wanted to 'go green' what kind of carbon offset would they need to invest in, per Gig? I found a Harvard study[***] on banner ads that seems to be applicable to internet traffic in general.

It's difficult to quantify and compare the two scenarios[*] but flying to London and back releases about 4,000 kilos of CO2[**] whereas sending 10G of data (video conferencing of youtube-quality video for 16 hours to 7 people) releases about about 100 kilos of CO2[***] + 30 kilos to run 7 computers for two days. While the plane's CO2 cost is only in terms of fuel (and not airports or surrounding infrastructure) the data CO2 from the Harvard study[***] is inclusive of wider infrastructure. Also planes releasing CO2 into the upper atmosphere do more damage than CO2 being released on the ground due to Radiative forcing.

One interesting thing from the Harvard study relates to Moores Law, "we calculate that energy intensity of the internet declined by approximately an order of magnitude from 2000 to 2006. While energy use approximately doubled in that time period, data traffic grew by more than a factor of 20". Now I know that Moores Law is purely about transistor chip density so please don't misunderstand me -- I just mean that as computers and networks get faster the energy needed for 1 gig of traffic will decrease.

So it's about 4000 kilos for flying ONE PERSON vs 130 kilos of video conferencing FOR ALL PEOPLE.

[*] because of course it depends on how wide you consider the effects. Flight pollution should of course include airport pollution but how far do we go? Does it include power company polution for the power needed in the airport? It seems that a lot of IT studies are wider in scope than that of flight.
[**] http://www.cheap-parking.net/flight-carbon-emissions.php [cheap-parking.net] for flying half way around the world and back.
[***] Harvard Study on CO2 for data: http://www.imc2.com/Documents/CarbonEmissions.pdf [imc2.com]

ps. In New Zealand? Sign up to http://CreativeFreedom.org.nz [creativefreedom.org.nz]

Airlines (1)

jythie (914043) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410651)

I think the interesting piece to pull from this is how little impact individual industries have compared to the perceived impact.
 
The airlines are a good example of this effect. There are quite a few high profile environmentalists who decry airlines and the damage they are doing,.. the probably do NOT think about the enviromental impact of the computers they use or the networks they attach to.
 
This is probalby because people have an easier time thinking in terms of singular things with big impacts rather then lots of little tings. Airplanes are big, so they must have a big impact. Computers and networks are spread out everywhere, so people don't think about them.

Yes, but how much is that vs. alternative actions? (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410653)

And without the internet, we'd be spending a LOT more than that.

Imagine the gas wasted on trips to the bookstore, vs. aggregation of purchases through Amazon, the reduced waste thanks to Print-On-Demand... you get the idea.

Google is, for all intents and purposes, the cost of business. I'm all for reducing Google's energy consumption, but it's a lot better than the non-internet alternatives.

What is the environmental impact of.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410661)

Authoring, editing, and distributing inane studies about the environmental impact of things like Google Searches?

I have an idea... how about all the people who are worried about it stop using their computers.... and stop breathing... then the rest of us can get on with our lives.

Subject (1)

z-j-y (1056250) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410673)

and every time you troll on slashdot, two kittens are broiled.

Re:Subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410823)

We can thank trolls for being charitable toward starving Koreans!

Idiotic (1)

ekimd (968058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410689)

It's time to wake up and realize that energy utilization isn't going away and we need to find (read 'use') methods of generating energy that have a lower carbon footprint. Limiting google searches to reduce greenhouse gasses is about the most idiotic thing I've heard in awhile. I wonder then how much each slashdot post adds to the marginal CO2 emission.

Besides, these numbers don't seem to add up...

I'll read this when (1)

dimethylxanthine (946092) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410691)

the study compares the data to how many grams of CO2 it takes to read an, imho irrelevant, study like that when the Kyoto protocol isn't even signed.

If you mod me down I will become more powerful than you can imagine.

Or visiting a website ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410719)

"but similar extrapolations have been done before about, for instance, the energy costs of sending a short email."

Or, for instance, visiting the TimesOnline.co.uk website and having their servers waste energy delivering advertising and the article itself ;-)

I especially like the "Click here for how to reduce the footprint of the Web". I know: I won't click on it.

Google Data center locations (1)

klashn (1323433) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410757)

Here's a map of all the google data center locations... How top secret are they now? I believe the ones in OR/WA are in "The Dalles" which is close to the Bonneville dam? maybe that data center is hydroelectric powered. http://royal.pingdom.com/2008/04/11/map-of-all-google-data-center-locations/ [pingdom.com]

They made a critical omission (0, Offtopic)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410773)

they failed to account for the amount of carbon saved by searching for porn instead of having sex and potentially creating kids which release tons of carbon.

as opposed to the alternative? (1)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410775)

how about all those yellow pages, encyclopedias, dictionaries, training/research manuals, Porn magazines & catalogs that have to be printed and delivered/picked up?

some people just like to bitch...

Times also (1)

phrostie (121428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410781)

doesn't that apply to the Times online also?

seems they don't have room to talk

We need the moderate middle gound!!! (2, Interesting)

Raisey-raison (850922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410795)

While I agree with the sentiment I cannot go so far as to be guilted into not using Google. This craziness stretches into other areas. Large plasma TVs are facing face being banned in the EU. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/giant-plasma-tvs-face-ban-in-battle-to-green-britain-1299665.html [independent.co.uk]

There is talk about heavily taxing the airline industry to bring down the number of miles flown.

There seems to be no middle ground. Either its denial of global warming or banning major economic and social activity in the name of the environment.

Of course we can solve the problem. We need to use non carbon emitting sources such as nuclear power, solar and wind power. Instead the greenies on Europe want to guilt anyone who uses energy. In the end all that does is to depress the economy, raise unemployment and lower standards of living.

Its also ironic that the greenies always try to inhibit the green power they always go on about. The have stopped wind power on top of mountains in Vermont ( http://www.windaction.org/news/3653 [windaction.org] )and filed lawsuits against solar power in the Nevada desert. http://features.csmonitor.com/environment/2008/09/25/are-some-solar-projects-no-longer-%E2%80%98green%E2%80%99/ [csmonitor.com] They even oppose wind power out at sea - Nantucket sound. http://www.nesea.org/publications/NESun/cape_controversy.html [nesea.org] Why? Because it's development and they hate ALL development. They always have some objection.

The irony is that we cannot address global warming BECAUSE of the opposition to environmentalists. Indeed if we are to use electric cars we are going to need many more (non carbon emitting) power stations which the experimentalists fight against tooth and nail.

And then I am always amazed by how so many people seem to forge that China is the number one emitter now and that India will soon be number two. If you cannot get these countries on board you are wasting your time. So while the EU impoverishes itself trying to reduce its carbon emissions by 1% China happily adds 10 times that every year anyway.

Hypocracy (1)

lilfields (961485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410831)

Just reading this article and him writing it had a significant global impact according to his own report. He just created more CO2 emissions by posting his article than most people will emit during a year of Google searches. Also, this is where the climate change movement loses it's precedence.

You might start by spelling 'hypocrisy' right. /nt (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410845)

EN TEA.

Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410843)

I sure don't. I'm getting tired of this anti-everything that happens to change the environment in any way possible. I wish all of the environmentalists would commit suicide, but unfortunately the amount of carbon emissions generated from a rotting corpse are probably greater than what they generate in a day.. I hate this :(

compared to the alternative ... (1)

freddy_dreddy (1321567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410869)

Exactly how many kettles of tea does it cost to put all the texts on the internet in print and distribute them across all the libraries ?

I would take these numbers (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410889)

with a grain of salt. About the size of a basketball.

"junksience" tag well earned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26410931)

A quick estimate shows my home PC under load uses up the same energy as heating a kettle in about 45min. The magnitude suggests that Mr. Gross used ludicrously oversimplified model such as linearly searching the entire Google index in RAM.
Also, as already pointet out, he fails to mention the costs of getting the required information by other means.
Furthermore, all this climate change hysteria is getting more and more ridiculous, especially since the Arctis recovered from almost 30 years of ice loss within two weeks.

Google will kill us all! (5, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410939)

A new study shows that using Google will destroy the planet [today.com] . A typical Google search on a completely random topic such as "charlot chirch sex tape" produces enough carbon for 98 pencils or seventeen boiled kettles and brutally murders an average of two point four cute fluffy things.

"A Google search has a definite environmental impact," said Alex Wissner-Gross of Harvard University. "Instead, you should use Windows Live Search — to be renamed Windows Love Search — which produces butterflies and baby seals. That's instead of whatever you were looking for, but hey — it's for the planet."

Google is "secretive" about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. "Or at least, they told us to fuck off when we asked how many endangered species they'd killed off today. This proves their inherent malice. If you search using Google you may as well be strangling kittens. You should go to a trustworthy company of demonstrated moral fibre, like Microsoft."

A recent Gartner report said the global IT industry generates as much greenhouse gas as the airlines industry. "Primary in this is the large quantities of hot air produced by completely independent analysts to support the views of the highest bidder."

The Home Office welcomed the findings. "This proves that Internet users might as well be terrorists," said Jacqui Smith, "and so we'll treat them like they are. All Internet access in the UK will be run through Cleanfeed filters and your electronic ration book ticked off per web page used. Reading Wikipedia or the Guido Fawkes blog will, of course, be declared capital offences."

Microsoft has demonstrated its environmental credentials by recycling Vista, its huge and lumbering Hummer of an operating system, as Windows 7. "All new and yet ... old," said marketing marketer Steve Ballmer. "Save the planet with Windows 7! Requires 4 core processor 2 gigabytes memory 500 gigabyte hard disk and basement nuclear power plant. Power plant sold separately."

Estimating cost is only half the job done (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410949)

Before we shut down Google, we might also want to consider the benefits (both environmental and other) of the Google service.

How much carbon does it save by sparing us trips to the local or university library? Or in having books shipped to us?

How much CO2 is saved by having Google Maps give good directions, so that we don't drive around looking for our destination?

Or how about the green-energy research and procurement that's enabled by people's use of Google?

Also, consider that Google's porn search eliminates all the carbon emission needed to take a woman out to dinner and a movie.

And in related news... (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 5 years ago | (#26410981)

Useless research on a daily basis dwarves Google carbon footprint.

hardly. (1)

Rdickinson (160810) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411007)

kettle = 3000w (UK/240v, 13amps) for 2 min.

Google search 1/100000th of a blade server (or whatever) at ~200w for about 0.01 seconds.

So, simple (green) maths has them almost equal...

silly energy comparisons (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411011)

Firstly I'd like to say I don't drink tea, coffee or other hot bereage. Therefore I am saving the environment enough energy to do my google searches.

Google makes money in spite of its electricity bill. The money comes from advertisers. If those advertisers weren't advertising on the internet, they would be sending out glossy paper adervtising which uses way more energy, and of course choppimg down trees to ,ake the paper.

What google could do is install wind turbines to help power their servers. Also if there is that much power involved then there would be a lot of hot surplus, which they could use to provide heat for nearby businesses or other institutions. (it is after all winter at the moment) Or even boil a cup of tea.

Tea?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26411017)

The Times Online reports that researchers claim that each query submitted to Google has a quantifiable impact. Specifically, two queries performed through a desktop computer generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a cup of tea.

You mean I'm supposed to be worried about the environmental impact of drinking tea?!

If the answer is "no", then this report is absolutely pointless. If it's "yes", then taking care of the Earth has become to difficult and inconvenient and I say we just let it burn.

Odd Juxtaposition ... (1)

ProfM (91314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411019)

I read this article a few hours ago from Drudge ... and while the article may be 100% accurate and irrefutable, there was another article that was also on there, also published today:

Earth on the Brink of an Ice Age [pravda.ru]

I'm not sure if the left hand knows exactly what the right hand is doing ... but to me, it seems like two completely different scenarios.

Obviously, the earth has cooled before [wikipedia.org] ... and it's warmed up before [wikipedia.org] . Nobody is disputing this fact.

Certainly, in the past few decades, CO2 has risen [wikipedia.org] . And, for the past 650,000 years, it has been fluctuating, but topped out around 360ppm [udel.edu] . Though if you go back even further, you'll see that CO2 has been much higher (see pg 23) [westinstenv.org] than recent times. One has to question what is the optimal level for the Earth? Is it now ... at 385ppm, or in pre-historic times at over 1000ppm?

By using 7g of CO2 emissions per search, the article really gives such a vague scare of global warming. By my interpretation, we should shut down that evil CO2 emitter, at least thats what they are implying. Alternatively, just create a new tax [businessandmedia.org] obviously, this will reduce levels ... somehow.

As far as a solution for the "global warming" problem ... I'll have to think about it while I turn up the heat in the house [noaa.gov] while I shovel snow outside [thenorthwestern.com] .

BTW, yes I do know that Weather != Climate ... but currently, it is just fsck'n cold. [npr.org]

Re:Odd Juxtaposition ... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411097)

The real question is: what is the optimal level of CO2 for both humans and bees?

The flip side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26411027)

People who watch porn have now become major polluters.

Beats cruisin' (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411051)

Back in the days cruisin' -the act of driving a car pointlessly- used to be a pass time. How much cruisin' does google prevent?

A cup of nice, hot tea. (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411063)

This is why we need to hook our computers up to brownian motion generators.

Numbers don't make sense (1)

zenyu (248067) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411067)

A tea kettle runs at about 1500 watts, and takes a few hundred seconds to heat the water. Google does a search in a few hundreds of a second on a few servers which consume less than 1500 watts in total, so you should get a few thousand Google searches for each tea kettle heated. If the article said you got 1,000 searches or 10,000 searches or 100,000 searches it might have been believable, even if still incorrect. But 2 just doesn't make sense, it's as if the article said driving to the supermarket to buy groceries twice used as much energy as going to Mars once.

Of course there are certain fixed cost to generating the indexes used for searches, but doing fewer searches won't help with that. The biggest environmental cost is all those employees Google has, they eat food, breathe, get on airplanes, and most damagingly live in houses. But you really have to offset those against all the time wasted by the mass of humanity to find information before internet search; when you factor, that my best guess would be that each Google search saves on average 100 tons of CO^2 emissions. Of course I just pulled that number out of nowhere, but it's backed up by more reasoning than the wild and wacky guess in the article.

FYI Water has an enormous heat capacity, it takes 4186 Joules to heat 1 liter of water 1 degree C. 1 Watt == 1 Joule/second so if your 1.5 L and 1500 Watt tea kettle were perfectly insulated and you put the electric heating element within it and heated the water from 10 C to 100 C it would take 1.5 * 90 * 4186 => 565110 Joules of energy and 565110 / 1500 = 378 seconds to heat it. Of course, most tea kettles are metal which is a great heat conductor and a terrible heat insulator, so good deal of energy is also lost to the air.

Hey Timothy, I have a question here. (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26411087)

What the hell is "200 meters internet searches"?

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