A number of prominent media outlets, including Macleans, published yesterday’s study on the environmental impact of Google. According to a Harvard physicist, Google is a major contributor to our carbon footprint because each Google search takes about as much carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle, or about 7g of CO2.
Google rebuffed these figures today, saying they are out by a factor of 35. They say it takes about 0.2 g of CO2 for each search. Which is not very much at all. To put this figure in perspective, you’d need to do about 1,000 Google searches to generate the equivalent of driving your car about 1 km.
Wired magazine has also weighed in, coming down on Google’s side. They argue that even if the Harvard professor was right, Google’s total contribution still amounted to very little in the big scheme of things. The United States generates 6.9 billion kilograms of CO2-equivalent per day, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. So assuming that Google does 5 billion daily searches and the higher figure of 7g CO2 is right, says Wired, then the search engine is still only responsible for 0.2 per cent of the nation’s carbon footprint.
So, keep Googling.