University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Google search equivalent to boiling a kettle

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Jan 26, 2009

Performing two Google searches has the same environmental impact as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to recent research.

It is estimated that the world’s leading search engine receives around 200 million search requests per day, with a single search generating 7g of carbon dioxide. Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist who is conducting the research, condemned this stating: “Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power – a Google search has a definite environmental impact.”

The cause of the problem lies in Google’s search process, which sends search requests to multiple servers rather than just one. Although this allows for faster results it also has the effect of raising energy consumption due to servers which compete with each other around the globe. Understandably, in an era marked by environmental concern, Google has been discreet about releasing consumption figures and has even refused to expose the locations of its data centres. Notwithstanding, Google declares itself as being on the frontline of green computing, stating: “We are among the most efficient of all internet search providers.”

Despite the emissions caused by Google, it is but a fraction of emissions caused by computing; simply running a personal computer for one hour emits between four to eight times more carbon dioxide.

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