Does Googling Hurt Mother Nature?


In a time when the tech industry has been making concerted efforts in going green, startling new research reveals that we may be mucking with mother nature simply by using Google. Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard physicist researching the environmental impact of computing, claims that for every two Google searches performed, the same amount of CO2 (carbon dioxide) is burned as it would take to boil a kettle for a cup of tea, which is about 7g.

"Google operates huge data centers around the world that consume a great deal of power,” said Wissner-Gross . "A Google search has a definite environmental impact."

Wissner-'Gross isn't the only one to question what impact Google searches might be having on the environment. According to an estimate from John Buckley, managing director of, CO2 emissions of a Google search sit at anywhere from 1g to 10g, depending on whether or not you have to start your PC. And Chris Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet , puts the average higher at 7g to 10g.

For Google's part, the company hasn't disclosed its energy consumption or carbon footprint, nor has the search giant revealed the locations of its data centers. That makes it hard to come up with a clear consensus on how much CO2 emissions Google searches create, but the company did say Wissner-Gross' estimation is many times too high. Instead, Urs H ölzle, senior VP of operations at Google, says the actual number is equivalent to about 0.2g of CO2, and that it would take roughly a thousand Google searches to produce as many greenhouse gases as an average car driven for one kilometer.

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