Does searching Google damage the environment?

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.

Two Google searches produce the same amount of CO2 as bringing water to a boil on your stovetop, according to research from Harvard University. Google claims that the Harvard study is flawed. The Harvard study was first published in British newspaper The Sunday Times.

According to the report just carrying out a typical search through Google can generate about seven grams (g) of carbon dioxide (CO2). Alex Wissner-Gross, the Harvard University professor that authored the report, says that even just browsing a basic Web site can generate about 0.002g of CO2 for every second it is viewed. Sites with complex video can bring even more CO2 in the atmosphere, somewhere around 0.2g per second.

But Google doesn't seem to be happy with the negative publicity the latest Harvard research brings. Only hours after the initial publishing, Google posted on their official blog an article explaining how they "have designed and built the most energy efficient data centers in the world," calling Dr. Wissner-Gross's research numbers "many times too high." Google also says that driving a car for a kilometer (0.6 miles) equates to the same amount of CO2 produced by a thousand of your Google searches.

So is Googling bad for the environment or not? Well, Google definitely has an impact over the environment, due the large amounts of energy it uses in its data centers around the world. But as Google points out, in comparison to other industries (such as the automobile), the effects it has over the environment are comparably lower. The only thing left to see is how good to the planet Google will be as years go by and even more people gain access to the Internet.

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