The environmental impact of Google searches revealed

January 11th, 2009 - 2:09 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Jan 11 (ANI): While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a new research has revealed that 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.

A typical search generates about 7g of CO2 while boiling a kettle generates about 15g.

Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power. A Google search has a definite environmental impact, Times Online quoted said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon, as saying.

Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres.

However, with more than 200m Internet searches estimated globally daily, the 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 worlds airlines - about 2 percent of global CO2 emissions.

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

For instance, when a person types in a Google search for, say, energy saving tips, the request doesnt go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other. It may even be sent to servers thousands of miles apart.

Googles infrastructure sends 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.

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, Wissner-Gross said.

For the study, Wissner-Gross also calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the Internet.

His study indicates that viewing a simple web page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second. This rises tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos. (ANI)

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