Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Real Cost of a Google Search!


Can Google go Green? 

Google searching has become a basic tool in everyday life. If you don’t know the answer, just Google it! Since its launch in 1997, billions of people worldwide have been using it. It’s a free search engine which I’m pretty sure most people use on a daily basis. For us it’s free to use, but what is the real cost of a Google Search? There are many factors that need to be taken into account, such as the amount of carbon dioxide emitted not only from generating the search results, but the emissions from our electronic devices while we are searching.
A typical Google search takes on average about 0.2 seconds to return results. That Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2. [1] It seems to be a small enough figure. But in 2011, Google handled about 1,722,071,000,000 searches! [2] That amounts to roughly 350 thousand tonnes of CO2 emissions that year! But who owns that carbon emission? Us or Google? We’re the ones using the search engine, but Google’s the one that’s returning the results. Google has gone green and offset their carbon emissions to deal with their environmental impact. We too should aim to reduce our carbon emissions.
That was just the carbon dioxide emission cost of the actual Google search, the cost of running the device that the search is done on has not been taken into account yet! According to a Harvard University physicist, a typical search on a desktop computer generates about 7 grams of CO2. [3] This is taking into account the CO2 emissions generated from both the Google search and the desktop computer. So really that amounts to about 12 million tonnes of CO2 emissions for the year 2011 just for Google searches!
In doing this blog alone, I have already done three Google searches. One for finding out the actual cost of a Google search, another for how many searches Google handled in one year and finally another for getting an image for this blog. So I have already generated 21 grams of CO2 just by searching for information for this blog. This does not include the time I spent using the computer to type this blog up and emailing it!
So how can we reduce our Google search carbon emissions? Instead of making unnecessary searches, we should think about what we really need to look up. In fact, we can reduce our overall carbon emissions by using sustainable renewable sources of energy, such as wind and sunlight. If our electronics are powered by renewable energy, we have already immensely reduced our CO emissions.
Ivana Yeow

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