A search on Google requires as much energy and emits as much greenhouse gases as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea. While boiling water in a kettle for a cup of tea emits about 15g of CO2, a search on Google emits 7g. These are the results of research carried out by Harvard Physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, who is working on a report on the environmental impact of computing. Google comes under the scanner due to the large number of huge data centers that it operates in secret locations and the number of searches that are carried out using Google daily.
Google has refuted these claims and says that the physicist is off by at least a factor of 10. It claims that its data centers are highly energy efficient and as their servers take only a fraction of a second on an average to return results, due to its technologies like indexing, pigeon ranking etc. the emissions are negligible.
The Sunday Times which reported this story, it seems had sexed up the story by naming Google and comparing it with the boiling water paradigm, as the scientist claims that he did not name Google in the report and was speaking generally. It will always be the biggest player in the market that comes under the scanner as they make an easy target.
The story has gotten me thinking of the impact of all things online, all of which requires servers connected to power sources, which will be spewing away gases as we send out an email, search for something, do just about anything online…Individually the impact may be negligible but combine together a gadzillion people from around the world doing whatever they do online…